Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Honor Of The “Old Man”- On The 71st Anniversary Of The Death Of Leon Trotsky-Leon Trotsky: Organizer Of Victory By Karl Radek

Click on the headline to link to a review of the early life of Leon Trotsky in his political memoir, My Life.

Markin comment:

Every year at this time we honor the memory of the great Russian revolutionary leader, Leon Trotsky, a man who not only was able theoretically to articulate the arc of the Russian Revolution of 1917 (the theory of permanent revolution) but personally led the defend of that revolution against world imperialism and its internal Russian White Guard agents. Oh yes, and also wrote a million pro-communist articles, did a little turn at literary criticism, acted in various Soviet official capacities, led the Communist International, led the opposition first in Russia and then internationally to the Stalinist degeneration of that revolution, and created a new revolutionary international (the Fourth International) to rally the demoralized international working class movement in the face of Hitlerite reaction. To speak nothing of hunting, fishing, raising rabbits, collecting cactii and chasing Frida Kahlo around Mexico (oops, on that last one). In short, as I have characterized him before, the closest that this sorry old world has come to producing a complete communist man within the borders of bourgeois society (except that last thing, that skirt-chasing thing, although maybe not). All honor to his memory. Forward to new Octobers!

Usually on this anniversary I place a selection of Trotsky’s writings on various subjects in this space. This year, having found a site that has material related to his family life, the effect of his murder on that family, and other more personal details of his life I am placing that material here in his honor. The forward to new Octobers still goes, though.
Markin comment:

No question that all of Leon Trotsky's political and organization skills and the strong side of his personality came through as he set out to defense the nascent Soviet state against the Whites. Radek does a pretty good job here of hitting the highlights of those efforts.
Karl Radek

Organizer of Victory

Source: Fourth International, August, 1944

History has prepared our party for various tasks. However defective our state machinery or our economic activity may be, still the whole past of the party has psychologically prepared it for the work of creating a new order of economy and a new state apparatus. History has even prepared us for diplomacy. It is scarcely necessary to mention that world politics have always occupied the minds of Marxists. But it was the endless negotiations with the Mensheviki that perfected our diplomatic technique; and it was during these old struggles that Comrade Chicherin learned to draw up diplomatic notes. We are just beginning to learn the miracle of economics. Our state machinery creaks and groans. In one thing, however, we have been eminently successful – in our Red Army. Its creator, its central will, is Comrade L.D. Trotsky.

Old General Moltke, the creator of the German army, often spoke of the danger that the pen of the diplomats might spoil the work of the soldier’s sabre. Warriors the world over, though there were classical authors among them, have always opposed the pen to the sword. The history of the proletarian revolution shows how the pen may be re-forged into a sword. Trotsky is one of the best writers of world socialism, but these literary advantages did not prevent him from becoming the leader, the leading organizer of the first proletarian army. The pen of the best publicist of the revolution was re-forged into a sword.

Marxist Military Literature Was Scant
The literature of scientific socialism helped Comrade Trotsky but little in solving the problems which confronted the party when it was threatened by world imperialism. If we look through the whole of pre-war socialist literature, we find – with the exception of a few little-known works by Engels, some chapters in his Anti-Düehring devoted to the development of strategy, and some chapters in Mehring’s excellent book on Lessing, devoted to the war activity of Frederick the Great – only four works on military subjects: August Bebel’s pamphlet on militia, Gaston Moch’s book on militia, the two volumes of war history by Schulz, and the book by Jaurès, devoted to the propaganda of the idea of the militia in France. With the exception of the books of Schulz and Jaures, which possess high value, everything which socialist literature has published on military subjects since Engels’ death has been bad dilettantism. But even these works by Schulz and Jaures afforded no reply to the questions with which the Russian Revolution was confronted. Schulz’s book surveyed the development of the forms of strategy and military organizations for many centuries back. It was an attempt at the application of the Marxian methods of historical research, and closed with the Napoleonic period. Jaurès’ book-full of brilliance and sparkle – shows his complete familiarity with the problems of military organization, but suffers from the fundamental fault that this gifted representative of reformism was anxious to make of the capitalist army an instrument of national defense, and to release it from the function of defending the class interests of the bourgeoisie. He therefore failed to grasp the tendency of development of militarism, and carried the idea of democracy ad absurdum in the question of war, into the question of the army.

I do not know to what extent Comrade Trotsky occupied himself before the war with questions of military knowledge. I believe that he did not gain his gifted insight into these questions from books, but received his impetus in this direction at the time when he was acting as correspondent in the Balkan war, this final rehearsal of the great war. It is probable that he deepened his knowledge of war technique and of the mechanism of the army, during his sojourn in France (during the war), from where he sent his brilliant war sketches to the Kiev Mysli. It may be seen from this work how magnificently he grasped the spirit of the army. The Marxist Trotsky saw not only the external discipline of the army, the cannon, the technique. He saw the living human beings who serve the instruments of war, he saw the sprawling charge on the field of battle.

Trotsky is the author of the first pamphlet giving a detailed analysis of the causes of the decay of the International. Even in face of this great decay Trotsky did not lose his faith in the future of socialism; on the contrary, he was profoundly convinced that all those qualities which the bourgeoisie endeavors to cultivate in the uniformed proletariat, for the purpose of securing its own victory, would soon turn against the bourgeoisie, and serve not only as the foundation of the revolution, but also of revolutionary armies. One of the most remarkable documents of his comprehension of the class structure of the army, and of the spirit of the army, is the speech which he made – I believe at the first Soviet Congress and in the Petrograd Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council – on Kerensky’s July offensive. In this speech Trotsky predicted the collapse of the offensive, not only on technical military grounds, but on the basis of the political analysis of the condition of the army.

“You” – and here he addressed himself to the Mensheviki and the SR’s – “demand from the government a revision of the aims of the war. In doing so you tell the army that the old aims, in whose name Czarism and the bourgeoisie demanded unheard-of sacrifices, did not correspond to the interests of the Russian peasantry and Russian proletariat. You have not attained a revision of the aims of the war. You have created nothing to replace the Czar and the fatherland, and yet you demand of the army that it shed its blood for this nothing. We cannot fight for nothing, and your adventure will end in collapse.”

The secret of Trotsky’s greatness as organizer of the Red Army lies in this attitude of his towards the question.

All great military writers emphasize the tremendously decisive significance of the moral factor in war. One half of Clausewitz’s great book is devoted to this question, and the whole of our victory in the civil war is due to the circumstance that Trotsky knew how to apply this knowledge of the significance of the moral factor in war to our reality. When the old Czarist army went to pieces, the minister of war of the Kerensky government, Verkhovsky, proposed that the older military classes be discharged, the military authorities behind the front partly reduced, and the army reorganized by the introduction of fresh young elements. When we seized power, and the trenches emptied, many of us made the same proposition. But this idea was the purest Utopia. It was impossible to replace the fleeing Czarist army with fresh forces. These two waves would have crossed and divided each other. The old army had to be completely dissolved; the new army could only be built up on the alarm sent out by Soviet Russia to the workers and peasants, to defend the conquests of the revolution.

When, in April 1918, the best Czarist officers who remained in the army after our victory met together for the purpose of working out, in conjunction with our comrades and some military representatives of the Allies, the plan of organization for the army, Trotsky listened to their plans for several days – I have a clear recollection of this scene – in silence. These were the plans of people who did not comprehend the upheaval going on before their eyes. Every one of them replied to the question of how an army was to be organized on the old pattern. They did not grasp the metamorphosis wrought in the human material upon which the army is based. How the war experts laughed at the first voluntary troops organized by Comrade Trotsky in his capacity as Commissar of War! Old Borisov, one of the best Russian military writers, assured those Communists with whom he was obliged to come in contact, time and again, that nothing would come of this undertaking, that the army could only be built up on the basis of general conscription, and maintained by iron discipline. He did not grasp that the volunteer troops were the secure foundation pillars upon which the structure was to be erected, and that the masses of peasants and workers could not possibly be rallied around the flag of war again unless the broad masses were confronted by deadly danger. Without believing for a single moment that the volunteer army could save Russia, Trotsky organized it as an apparatus which he required for the creation of a new army.

Utilizing the Bourgeois Specialists
But Trotsky’s organizing genius, and his boldness of thought are even more clearly expressed in his courageous determination to utilize the war specialists for creating the army. Every good Marxist is fully aware that in building up a good economic apparatus we still require the aid of the old capitalist organization. Lenin defended this proposition with the utmost decision in his April speech on the tasks of the Soviet power. In the mature circles of the party the idea is not contested. But the idea that we could create an instrument for the defense of the republic, an army, with the aid of the Czarist officers – encountered obstinate resistance. Who could think of re-arming the White officers who had just been disarmed? Thus many comrades questioned. I remember a discussion on this question among the editors of the Communist, the organ of the so-called left communists, in which the question of the employment of staff officers nearly led to a split. And the editors of this paper were among the best schooled theoreticians and practicians of the party. It suffices to mention the names of Bukharin, Ossonski, Lomov, W. Yakovlev. There was even greater distrust among the broad circles of our military comrades, recruited for our military organizations during the war. The mistrust of our military functionaries could only be allayed, their agreement to the utilization of the knowledge possessed by the old officers could only be won, by the burning faith of Trotsky in our social force, the belief that we could obtain from the war experts the benefit of their science, without permitting them to force their politics upon us; the belief that the revolutionary watchfulness of the progressive workers would enable them to overcome any counter-revolutionary attempts made by the staff officers.

Trotsky’s Magnetic Energy
In order to emerge victorious, it was necessary for the army to be headed by a man of iron will, and for this man to possess not only the full confidence of the party, but the ability of subjugating with his iron will the enemy who is forced to serve us. But Comrade Trotsky has not only succeeded in subordinating to his energy even the highest staff officers. He attained more: he succeeded in winning the confidence of the best elements among the war experts, and in converting them from enemies of Soviet Russia to its most profoundly convinced followers. I witnessed one such victory of Trotsky’s at the time of the Brest-Litovsk negotiations. The officers who had accompanied us to Brest-Litovsk maintained a more than reserved attitude towards us. They fulfilled their role as experts with the utmost condescension, in the opinion that they were attending a comedy which merely served to cover a business transaction long since arranged between the Bolsheviki and the German government. But the manner in which Trotsky conducted the struggle against German imperialism, in the name of the principles of the Russian revolution, forced every human being present in the assembly room to feel the moral and spiritual victory of this eminent representative of the Russian proletariat. The mistrust of the war experts towards us vanished in proportion to the development of the great Brest-Litovsk drama.

How clearly I recollect the night when Admiral Altvater – who has since died – one of the leading officers of the old regime, who began to help Soviet Russia not from motives of fear but of conscience, entered my room and said: “I came here because you forced me to do so. I did not believe you; but now I shall help you, and do my work as never before, in the profound conviction that I am serving the fatherland.” It is one of Trotsky’s greatest victories that he has been able to impart the conviction that the Soviet government really fights for the welfare of the Russian people, even to such people who have come over to us from hostile camps on compulsion only. It goes without saying that this great victory on the inner front, this moral victory over the enemy, has been the result not only of Trotsky’s iron energy which won for him universal respect; not only the result of the deep moral force, the high degree of authority even in military spheres, which this socialist writer and people’s tribune, who was placed by the will of the revolution at the head of the army, has been able to win for himself; this victory has also required the self-denial of tens of thousands of our comrades in the army, an iron discipline in our own ranks, a consistent striving towards our aims; it has also required the miracle that those masses of human beings who only yesterday fled from the battle-field, take up arms again today, under much more difficult conditions, far the defense of the country.

That these politico-psychological mass factors played an important role is an undeniable fact, but the strongest, most concentrated, and striking expression of this influence is to be found in the personality of Trotsky. Here the Russian revolution has acted through the brain, the nervous system, and the heart of its greatest representative. When our first armed trial began, with Czecho-Slovakia, the party, and with its leader Trotsky, showed how the principle of the political campaign – as already taught by Lassalle – could be applied to war, to the fight with “steel arguments.” We concentrated all material and moral forces on the war. The whole party had grasped the necessity of this. But this necessity also finds its highest expression in the steel figure of Trotsky. After our victory over Denikin in March 1920, Trotsky said, at the party conference: “We have ravaged the whole of Russia in order to conquer the Whites.” In these words we again find the unparalleled concentration of will required to ensure the victory. We needed a man who was the embodiment of the war-cry, a man who became the tocsin sounding the alarm, the will demanding from one and all an unqualified subordination to the great bloody necessity.

It was only a man who works like Trotsky, a man who spares himself as little as Trotsky, who can speak to the soldiers as only Trotsky can – it was only such a man who could be the standard bearer of the armed working people. He has been everything in one person. He has thought out the strategic advice given by the experts and has combined it with a correct estimate of the proportions of social forces; he knew how to unite in one movement the impulses of fourteen fronts, of the ten thousand communists who informed headquarters as to what the real army is and how it is possible to operate with it; he understood how to combine all this in one strategic plan and one scheme of organization. And in all this splendid work he understood better than anyone else how to apply the knowledge of the significance of the moral factor in war.

This combination of strategist and military organizer with the politician is best characterized by the fact that during the whole of this hard work, Trotsky appreciated the importance of Demian Bedny (communist writer), or of the artist Moor (who draws most of the political caricatures for the communist papers, posters, etc.) for the war. Our army was an army of peasants, and the dictatorship of the proletariat with regard to the army, that is, the leading of this peasants’ army by workers and by representatives of the working class, was realized in the personality of Trotsky and in the comrades co-operating with him. Trotsky was able, with the aid of the whole apparatus of our party, to impart to the peasants’ army, exhausted by the war, the profoundest conviction that it was fighting in its own interests.

Inseparably Linked in History
Trotsky worked with the whole party in the work of forming the Red Army. He would not have fulfilled his task without the party. But without him the creation of the Red Army and its victories, would have demanded infinitely greater sacrifices. Our party will go down in history as the first proletarian party which succeeded in creating a great army, and this bright page in the history of the Russian revolution will always be bound up with the name of Leon Davidovitch Trotsky, with the name of a man whose work and deeds will claim not only the love, but also the scientific study of the young generation of workers preparing to conquer the whole world.

Friday, August 26, 2011

In Honor Of The “Old Man”- On The 71st Anniversary Of The Death Of Leon Trotsky-Father And Son By Natalia Sedova Trotsky

Click on the headline to link to a review of the early life of Leon Trotsky in his political memoir, My Life.

Markin comment:

Every year at this time we honor the memory of the great Russian revolutionary leader, Leon Trotsky, a man who not only was able theoretically to articulate the arc of the Russian Revolution of 1917 (the theory of permanent revolution) but personally led the defend of that revolution against world imperialism and its internal Russian White Guard agents. Oh yes, and also wrote a million pro-communist articles, did a little turn at literary criticism, acted in various Soviet official capacities, led the Communist International, led the opposition first in Russia and then internationally to the Stalinist degeneration of that revolution, and created a new revolutionary international (the Fourth International) to rally the demoralized international working class movement in the face of Hitlerite reaction. To speak nothing of hunting, fishing, raising rabbits, collecting cactii and chasing Frida Kahlo around Mexico (oops, on that last one). In short, as I have characterized him before, the closest that this sorry old world has come to producing a complete communist man within the borders of bourgeois society (except that last thing, that skirt-chasing thing, although maybe not). All honor to his memory. Forward to new Octobers!

Usually on this anniversary I place a selection of Trotsky’s writings on various subjects in this space. This year, having found a site that has material related to his family life, the effect of his murder on that family, and other more personal details of his life I am placing that material here in his honor. The forward to new Octobers still goes, though.
Natalia Sedova Trotsky
Father and Son

First Published: 1941 (English translation)
Source: Fourth International
Online Version: Natalia Sedova Internet Archive, December 2001
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Mike Bessler

"I can therefore say that I live on this earth not in accordance with the rule but as on exception to the rule."
June 8, 1940

Night. Darkness. I awaken. Pale patches of light flicker and then disappear. I raise myself...The sound of shots breaks upon my ears. They are shooting here, in our room. I have always been a light sleeper, and on awakening can quickly orient myself as to what is happening. Lev Davidovich was a sound sleeper in his younger years. Insomnia beset him for the first time when attacks against the Opposition began in the USSR, when the pages of Pravda began to overflow with black slander, unimaginable, fantastic slander which overwhelmed and dumbfounded the reader. To defend and justify themselves the slanderers used lies: they had no other weapon at their disposal.

Did the reading public believe them? Yes and no. The colossal tide of raging malice swept over them, engulfed them and they became disoriented... Tired, worn-out by the heroic years of the revolution, filled with fears about the future of its conquests, they began to believe the calumny, just as people begin to place faith in miracles during periods of decline and prostration. I used to see how the hands of readers would tremble as they held up the huge pages of Pravda; their hands would drop and then would be upraised again.

Our boys also lost sleep. The younger one, in bitter perplexity, would ask me: "What is it? Why do they say these things about papa? How dare they?" The older one, Leon, became frantic and was in a constant state of excitement. With a pale face he would tell me of his impressions in the circles of the youth and of his struggle against the buffets of the torrent of filth. "Brave little tailor," (a hero of one of Andersen's fairy tales), his father would say observing him with approbation.

"The brave little tailor" took pride in his health, and was not a little upset during that period by the unexpected insomnia, but he did not give in. He remained proud of his health until the last two years of his life, when suddenly it worsened quickly. The black years of the cynical Moscow trials mowed him down. For our son Leon was, though ill absentia, one of the chief defendants. The venom of criminal slander entered like poison into his young body. His entire nervous system was affected by the murders of Zinoviev, Piatakov, Muralov, Smirnov, Kamenev, Bukharin and many others; Kamenev and Bukharin he knew from his childhood, with the others he became acquainted later on, and he knew them all as honest revolutionists, he learned from them, loved them, respected them and connected them with the revolution, with its heroism, with its Lenin and Trotsky.

Nights of sleeplessness returned and he did not have the strength to fight them off. Sleeping drugs worked poorly on him. He would doze off only towards morning. And he had to get up between seven and eight in order to begin work, which was rendered still more difficult by the surveillance of the ever-wakeful GPU whose agents, as was later revealed, occupied quarters next to his. He lived at No. 26; they at No. 28.

Father and Son During the Moscow Trials

Our arrest in Norway aroused our son to the very core of his being: he was fully aware of what it meant. Our departure for Mexico, the three weeks' journey on board the oil tanker surrounded only by enemies introduced mortal alarm into his life. When we were at Gourum--the place of our incarceration in Norway--he sent us directions written in invisible ink and in code how to organize our trip. It was not discovered by our enemies and we received it. He sent friends to us from France. But no one was permitted to see us. And none of our friends was allowed to accompany us. Those three weeks of complete uncertainty were a great trial for Leon.

His father raged like a caged tiger. Delayed newspaper accounts of the then famous and first staging of the Moscow trials, his inability to answer it and expose the liars, were the greatest torture for Lev Davidovich. To defend himself against slander, to fight it--after all, this was his native element, the organic passion of his being; he found refuge in furious labor and in the struggle against all his contemptible enemies. But here in Gourum where he was doomed to silence, he fell ill.

Our son Leon understood this: his despair knew no bounds. He applied himself to the task which his father could not fulfill. In order to ease the latter's burden he came out himself with the exposure of the vile masters of the "Moscow Trials" whom he branded for what they were and who have written into the annals of history its most shameful and most revolting pages. Leon fulfilled this task brilliantly. In our jail we read his "Red Book" with great excitement. "All very true, all very true, good boy," said his father with a friend's tenderness. We wanted so much to see him and to embrace him!

In addition to his revolutionary activity and his literary work, our son occupied himself with higher mathematics which greatly interested him. In Paris he managed to pass examinations and dreamed of some time devoting himself to systematic work. On the very eve of his death he was accepted as a collaborator by the Scientific Institute of Holland and was to begin work on the subject of the Russian Opposition He was the only one among the youth who had had an enormous experience in this field and who was exhaustively acquainted with the entire history of the Opposition from its very inception.

Our economic instability used to worry him a great deal. How he yearned for economic independence! He once wrote me about his prospective earnings. The possibilities were good but he did not yet have definite assurance. "It would be a remarkable thing" (i.e., work in the Scientific Institute), he said and then added facetiously, "I would be in a position to assist my aging parents." "Why not dream?" he asked. His father and I often recalled these words of our son with love and tenderness. Mr. Spalding--assistant supervisor of the Russian Department in Stanford University-conducted some negotiations with our son in Paris concerning a prospective work, and here is what he later wrote about Leon: "The news of Sedov's death came to me as a shock. He impressed me as an extremely able and attractive personality, his future would undoubtedly have been brilliant. We are quite unclear about the circumstances of his death: some sources of our information indicate that it was due to medical negligence, or even something more terrible. Could you find it possible to write a brief note summarizing the conversation I had with Sedov last October (1937), including the tentative agreement which I had concluded with him. I could use such a note in ease it is possible to obtain certain information from Trotsky concerning the Russian civil war and war communism."

Leon entered the revolution as a child and never left it to the end of his days. The semi-conscious loyalty of his childhood toward the revolution later matured into a conscious and firmly intrenched devotion. Once in the summer of 1917, he came from school with a bloody hand into the office of the Woodworkers Trade Union (Bolshevik) where I was then working as editor and proof-reader of its organ, "Woodworkers Echo." It was the time of hot debates which took place net only in the Tauride Palace, the Smolny, or the Circus but also in the streets, the streetcars, schools and at work. Early in the morning, as a rule, a multitude of workers milled in the officer of our union, discussing current questions, i.e., the questions involving the impending seizure of power by the proletariat For the mass of workers these questions were indissolubly bound up with the personality of L.D. They discussed his speeches--and in these discussions could be felt the unity and inflexibility of will: a burning desire to march forward, summoning for a decisive struggle with unconquerable faith in victory.

The children were permitted to have their meals together with me in the union's dining room. Lev Davidovich was at the time sitting in the jail of the Provisional Democratic Government. To the queries of comrades concerning his hand Leon replied that he had been bitten by Kerensky (the Premier's son). How come? "I gave him one in his teeth." We all understood what had happened. The same school was also attended by the children of Skobelev, the then Minister of Labor. Fights were a daily occurrence.

By a blow from ambush the GPU cut short the young and dented life of our son and friend. This price was exacted for the upward flight unprecedented in history of the October revolution. Those responsible for its decline are now bringing their despicable work to its conclusion. The Second October will come; it will conquer the whole world and it will mete out their deserts both to the heroes of its predecessor as well as to its grave-diggers.

Lev Davidovich did not pore over the filthy pages of the Communist Party's paper "Pravda". He would quickly glance over it, and toss it aside with aversion. They are shooting...Lev Davidovich is now also awake. I whisper in his ear: "They are shooting here, in our room." And pressing close to him, I push him very, very gently, and drop down together with him from the low bed on to the floor.

"They are shooting." I uttered this with the self-same feeling as in the July days of 1917 I had said, "they have come." This was in Petrograd--it was later named Leningrad --when the police of Kerensky's government came to arrest L.D. We had expected arrest at the time--it was inevitable. The attack of Stalin was likewise expected by us. It was also inevitable. Nevertheless the expected came more unexpectedly on the night of May 24, 1940 than did the arrest in 1917.

When Kerensky Arrested Lev Davidovich

Kerensky's government had at that time scored a victory, not for long, but it did nonetheless succeed in arresting the Bolshevik leaders. I recall the manner in which the crisis of the Provisional Democratic Government was resolved. A stormy session was going on in the beautiful Hall of Columns in the Tauride Palace. I was sitting in a box, very close to the speakers' platform which was filled to overflowing with all the Lieberdans (this was how Demyan Bedny had labelled the Mensheviks in one of his poems which gained wide popularity). Suddenly there came the blare of triumphant music. A military band marched into the palace to the accompaniment of deafening applause and ecstatic greetings. The Government had secretly transferred from the front, regiments loyal to it and, as the future proved, these regiments were the last loyal ones. But at the time, they were sufficient. Those in power began to feel firm ground under their feet. I saw how those who tilled the platform, the conquerors, were covertly shaking each other by the hand, how they with great difficulty tried to restrain their transports of joy--their faces glowed, they were unable to preserve even an outward appearance of calm as was dictated by the circumstances.

In a few days the arrests began. L.D. and I occupied at the time a small room in the apartment of Comrade Y. Larin. Our boys were in Terioki with some friends. L.D. had spent that entire day as, incidentally, he spent all previous ones, at meetings until late into the white Petersburg night.

At five o'clock in the morning I heard a cautious tramping of feet on the asphalt in the courtyard and when I ran to the window and opened a chink in the shutters, I saw in the early white light uniforms in gray and guns slung across the arms. It was a military detachment of the Provisional Democratic Government. Beyond any doubt, this was for us. And touching L.D. on the shoulder I said, "They have come." He jumped up and began to dress himself swiftly. The bell rang. Comrade Larin, whom I had warned, did not open the door immediately. They rang again. They asked for Lunacharsky, this was a subterfuge. Then they presented an order for Trotsky's arrest. Larin did not give in. He forced them to wait. He tried to get the responsible Lieberdans on the telephone. But there was no answer anywhere. We said goodbye. Lev Davidovich did everything to keep up my spirits. They led him away. The general political situation was very grave at the time. The struggle was out in the open, direct actions were already being employed. It was a life and death struggle. But the last look L.D. gave me before he was taken away war full of confidence and challenge. That glance said to me: "We shall see who will vanquish whom."

There were visits to jail to arrange, the sending of packages to attend to, and so forth. I had the assistance of Leon and Sergei who undertook the delivery of packages (food, and so on) and transformed it into a game: "Who'll get there first." The overfilled street cars presented them with a great difficulty, but they hitched on and always arrived in jail exactly at the appointed hour.

They were greatly aroused by their father's second arrest. But the entire situation bore the promise of swift liberation and victory. It was quite different from the time when we were taken off the ship enroute to Russia by the English and separated, in 1917 in Halifax. The boys then remained with me in the status of prisoners not in jail but in a filthy room of a Russian spy in whose house a room was assigned to us. But L.D. was taken away with the others without a word of explanation. Complete uncertainty and isolation oppressed us extremely at the time.

The Attempted Assassination

We are lying on the floor, beside the wall in a corner and away from the cross-fire which proceeded without interruption for several minutes. Afterwards we took count of the holes in the walls and the doors of our bedroom: they numbered sixty. Pressing our bodies to the wall, we waited...l raised myself a little in order to shield L.D. because it seemed to me that the shots were being directed at him, but he stopped me. "Grandfather!" We both heard the cry of our grandson who slept in the neighboring room into which the criminals had entered. His voice rang out as if part in warning of the danger threatening us and part in a plea for help. Our grandson forgot about it, forgot his outcry, and no matter how I tried to remind him of his experiences and memories, he could not recall it. But this cry chilled us to the marrow. Everything became silent ... "They have kidnapped him," said his grandfather to me quietly. On the threshold which separated our bedroom from that of our grandson, illuminated by the flare of an incendiary bomb, a silhouette flashed: the curve of a helmet, shining buttons, an elongated face flashed by me as in a dream, and then 1 lost sight of the intruder. The shooting in the room stopped. We heard the sound of gunfire at a distance in the patio.

Quietly, slowly I crossed our bedroom and walked into the bathroom where a window gave to the patio. The little house could be seen where our friends, our guard lived. There also stood an enormous eucalyptus tree, and it was from there that they were firing! Beside this eucalyptus tree, as we later learned, the enemies had placed a machine gun. By a steady stream of fire they thus strategically cut off the guards from us. Investigating magistrates later found on the premises a bomb containing one and a half kilos of dynamite. A record of this is to be found in the minutes of the court in the case of the assault by Siqueiros, who was subsequently released on March 28, 1941: for lack of material and incriminating evidence! How monstrous! "The Master of the Soviet Land," "The Father of the Peoples," etc., etc., paid out lavishly from the proletarian treasury. According to the records, there was some sort of technical defect in the bomb and it could not be used by the criminals. But the investigation brought out the fact that it had sufficient power to blast the entire house to its foundation.

The shooting in the patio also ceased. Then, all was silence. Silent... intolerably silent. "Where can I hide you safely?" I was losing my strength from the tension and the hopelessness of the situation. Any moment now, they will come to finish him. My head spun around...And suddenly there came again the same voice, the voice of our grandson, but this time it came from the patio and sounded completely different, ringing out like a staccato passage of music bravely. joyously: "Al--fred! Mar--gue--rite!" It returned us to the living. A moment before we had felt the stillness of the night after firing ceased as in a grave, as with death itself..."They are all killed."

"Alfred! Marguerite!" No, they are alive...alive! But why then does no one come? Why does no one call us? After all, the others had left. Perhaps they are afraid, afraid of coming face to face with the irreparable. I seized the handle in the door which leads from our bedroom into L.D.'s workroom. It was closed, although we never locked it as a rule. The door was riddled by bullets like a sieve. They had fired through it into the bedroom. Through the interstices I could see the room suffused with a soft golden light from the shaded lamp on the ceiling; I could see the table covered with manuscripts in complete order; the books on the shelves were not touched. everything was tranquil there; the very background of the reign of thought, of creativeness was there. It was exactly as it had been left on the eve... How strange that was: order, tranquillity, light, everything on the table intact... Only the door with its black yawning holes bespoke the crime just committed.

I began pounding on the door. Otto came running. "The door is jammed for some reason." With our joint forces we opened the door. We walked into this wonderful, and at that time undisturbed room.

Robert Sheldon Harte

Seva, Alfred, Marguerite, Otto, Charlie, Jack, Harold--they were all there. Only Bob Sheldon was not with us. He, poor boy, had been on night duty and they had kidnapped him. A few of his belongings, some clothes and parts of his equipment remained in the empty garage... These made one's heart constrict in pain; one wanted to ask them what had happened to our friend, our guard? where was he? what had they done to him? Bob's things shrouded in mystery spoke to us of his doom. Sheldon had behind him altogether 23 years. How many hopes, how much idealism, faith in the future, readiness to struggle for it had perished with this young life! Exotic Mexico enthralled him. He was fascinated by the brightly colored little birds, acquired a few of them, kept them in our garden, and tended them so touchingly. Twenty three years: they lacked in the experience of life: they had not yet been moulded to an awareness of danger, the urgency of keeping on guard, but they were so sensitive as to have acquired all this presently, in a very short time. Sheldon loved to take walks. In his free hours he took walks around the environs of Coyoacan and brought back bouquets of field flowers.

Shortly after his arrival, he received a lesson from Lev Davidovich. Our place was being rebuilt, and it was necessary to open the gates every 15-20 minutes in order to let a worker with a wheelbarrow out into the street and then let him in back again. Bob was so carried away by building a bird cage that in order not to tear himself away from his work he handed the gate-key to the worker. This did not escape the notice of L.D. The latter explained to Bob that this was very careless on his part and added, "You might prove to be the first victim of your own carelessness." This was said about a month or six weeks before Bob's tragic death.

The day of May 24 began for us early and was full of excitement. The more we probed into an analysis of the bulletriddled walls and mattresses all the more did we become imbued with the realization of the danger that had threatened us, and all the more did we feel ourselves saved. The nervous tension of the night discharged itself into a state of high excitement kept in check by efforts to remain calm. This absence of dejection later served as one of the arguments in sup port of the senseless and shameless "theory of self-assault." As I recounted the events of the GPU's night assault to friends who visited us during that day, I felt that I was relating this almost with joy. But those who listened heard me with alarm, they cast frightened glances towards the heads of the two beds, where the wall was dotted with bullet holes, and I would say to myself as if in justification: "But after all the enemies did suffer failure."

The following days strengthened more and more in us the conviction that the failure suffered by our enemies on this occasion must be remedied by them; that the inspirer of this crime would not be deterred. And our joyous feeling of salvation was dampened by the prospect of a new visitation and the need to prepare for it.

L.D.'s Work During the Last Months

At the same time, Lev Davidovich was taking part in the conduct of the investigation of the case of May 24. Its slothful pace worried L.D. exceedingly. He followed the developments patiently and tirelessly, explaining the circumstances of the case to the court and to the press, making superhuman efforts to force himself to refute the self-evident and hopeless lies or malicious equivocations, doing all this with the intense perspicacity peculiar to him, and not allowing a single detail to escape his notice. He attached the proper significance to every single thing, and wove them all into a single whole.

And he grew tired. He slept poorly, dozing off and awakening with the self-same thoughts. Sometimes heard Lev Davidovich, when alone, say from his innermost depths, "I am tired...tired." A feeling of greatest alarm would seize me: I knew what this meant. But I also knew something else: I knew of the influx of vitality, inspiration and energy he would feel if he only could return quietly to his real work. He had outlined an analytical work on the Red Army for which he had been collecting material, another on the international situation; still others on world economy, and the latest period of the war. The day-to-day occurrences and the successive crimes of Stalin made it necessary to relegate these tasks to the second plane.

His book on Stalin had been forced on him by extraneous circumstances: financial necessity and by his publishers. Lev Davidovich more than once expressed a desire to write a "popular" book, as he called it, in order to earn some money thereby and then rest up by working on subjects of interest to him. But he could not bring this about, he was incapable of writing "popular" books. For a long time he hesitated to accept the publisher's offer, but our friends insisted on it. L.D. finally agreed. He planned to finish this work in a short while. But once he undertook it, he began to surround it with a conscientiousness peculiar to him and with a spirit of meticulousness and pedantism of which he often used to complain to me. Nevertheless he proposed to have it finished completely by March-April 1940. He was not able to. First the controversy in our party --its American section-distracted him, and then the events of May 24.

One of L.D.'s secret and most cherished desires was to depict the friendship between Marx and Engels, their "romance" which, as he told me, had never been investigated in his opinion as he wanted to do it. Lev Davidovich was very much in love with Engels, his whole profoundly human personality. He was greatly enthralled by the coupling of the two great and utterly different personalities of the two friends bound together by their striving for a single goal.

His Projected Book On Lenin

It was not without sorrow that he had to renounce for the time being the continuation of his book on Lenin. His deep and burning desire was to show Lenin as he was in reality as against all those who had written about Lenin self-obstrusively and measuring him by their own yardstick. No figment of the imagination of the epigones, however brilliant, could compare with the original. Lenin must appear before history, he had every right to it, in all his genius and with all his human weaknesses. The epigones, on the other hand, had endowed Lenin with good nature, modesty, simplicity, etc.,--but what did all this mean with reference to Lenin? They depicted him "in their own image." And Vladimir Ilyich was not one to be squeezed into a common mould. Lev Davidovich would demand also of me the most minute and insignificant recollections, but those which corresponded with reality, and he was very happy when I would recount to him or jot down for him various details he had not known and in which he was able to discern the real Lenin.

In 1917, in Petrograd, in the Smolny, our apartment was in the same corridor with the apartment of Lenin and his family. They used the bathroom located on our living area. We used to meet each other often in passing. Lenin was always brimful of energy, cheerful, polite. Once he walked in and seeing the boys, placed them side by side, stepped back a little, and putting both hands in his pockets, astonished me by saying cheerily: "Say, I like this!" The costume of the children had suddenly caught his eye. In those days, textiles were unobtainable and it never entered my mind to get a special order to obtain material for some shirts. We had a velvet tablecloth, with a flowery pattern, which I had cleaned and then cut up and sewed into blouses for the children. The boys were not much pleased. "Why go and make us shirts out of a rug?" I justified myself ... but it did not do any good. To be sure, they wore them. but not without grumbling. After Vladimir Ilyich's praise, the boys quieted down.

L.D.'s Health

During our ten years in the USSR, there were no great variations in L. D.'s health. in exile, or rather in emigration, his physical condition began to ebb and flow. In exile (Alma-Ata) Lev Davidovich's life was swallowed up by correspondence--in its way this was a continuation of our life during the last period in Moscow; current political and tactical questions were ever under discussion. We received such a quantity of mail as to make it impossible sometimes to read all the letters during the day. Our son Leon Sedov used to reply to a part of them, his father answered the greater portion. During the last months (of our stay in Alma-Ata) all correspondence, as is well known, was prohibited. It passed into illegal channels and its volume was greatly reduced.

At Prinkipo (Turkey) L.D. found it very hard at first. Inactivity and isolation oppressed him. The questions arose of the means of livelihood, funds for defense, funds for the foreign oppositional groups. All this compelled him to accept a publisher's offer to write his autobiography. It was very difficult for L. D. psychologically to enter into this work. It was so sharply out of harmony with the general bent of his being. He had to force himself to "recollect." This reacted on his nerves and his health on the whole became impaired.

A revival of his moral and physical condition occurred with the establishment of ties with European co-thinkers. Visitors from abroad, discussions with them, correspondence, writing political articles for oppositional organs in Europe--all this restored L.D. to his native element. And this in turn eased for him the compulsory labor over the autobiography.

At the dinner table or during fishing trips in the Sea of Marmora, no one suspected "low tide." Conversations on political topics, jokes, perking up this or that somewhat crestfallen comrade, all these invariably testified to the equanimity of L.D.'s moods. Only our son, when he lived with us, was able to guess that this was not so. How I loved the periods of "floodtide," how happy I was during them! Freshness, youthfulness, joyfulness returned in these periods to L.D. He would then passionately dictate political letters, and suggestions to friends, he would dictate his autobiography and various articles, and go fishing in the blue waters of the sea... He seethed in a frenzy. And all this in complete isolation. Behind four walls.

Our life near Royan (France) on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in the isolated villa "Sea-Spray" which our friends had rented for us, had a turbulent beginning. Friends and co-thinkers from different countries would arrive daily to visit L.D. We had from 15 to 20 visitors a day. L.D. would hold two or three discussions daily. Full of inspiration, vitality and seemingly inexhaustible energy, he astonished and gladdened our friends by his tirelessness and vigor. And here in France the financial aspect of our life again arose very sharply. There was a lull. I had to go to Paris for medical care. Lev Davidovich insisted on it. In his own physical condition there came the alterations of ebb and flow.

From Royan, L.D. once wrote me that despite his poor health he had carried through a discussion, and did it very successfully, with some friends who had arrived and in the presence of our son. "I watched Lyovik," he wrote. "His eyes were shining. He was radiant." After the discussion L.D. went to bed early, because of fatigue and he heard the stormy ocean flinging its spray to the windows of his room, dashing drops against the window panes. Leon came in to bid his father goodbye. He had to return that night to Paris. They exchanged a few warm remarks about the discussion that had just concluded. Our son was very excited and aroused. He approached his father's bed, and dropping his head, "like a child," as his father wrote, on his father's breast, he pressed closely and said, "Papa, I love you very much." They embraced each other and parted with tears.

The ocean continues to live with its stormy ebbs and flows. It seethes in a frenzy. The great fighter might have also lived on... Violence. The dealers of violence will meet with vengeance. Violence will wither away. Free mankind of the future will bow its head in memory of its innumerable victims.

“First Let’s Kill All The Lawyers”-Not- “The Lincoln Lawyer”- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the film The Lincoln Lawyer.

DVD Review

The Lincoln Lawyer, starring Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tormei, based on the novel by Michael Connelly, Liongate, 2011

Yes, I know, everybody, everybody including Richard III, I think, who uttered some variation of that idea in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name, hates lawyers. Hates them until old justice time comes along and everyone, including this writer, hopes to high heaven that their lawyer is up to the task of representing them zealously, and in some desperate cases more than zealously. And that combination of sentiments, that hate/love thing, is what drives this film which according to my usually reliable sources follows the Michael Connelly novel pretty closely.

Needless to say, except for the thugs, pimps, dope dealers, hellish motorcycle angels, bail bondmen, public servant grifters and grafters and a bewitching lawyer ex-wife (played by Marissa Tormei) nobody, no viewer anyway, is suppose to like the Lincoln lawyer at the outset. (Named the Lincoln lawyer, by the way, not for his ethical resemblance to Father Abraham but because he rides around in a chauffeur-driven Lincoln.) His wheeling and dealing just this side of the law is what makes him the darling of that rogue’s gallery of characters listed above (except, of course, the fetching ex-wife, and maybe her a little too) and the bane of the District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles Police Department establishment.

That deft and ruthless maneuvering is what also draws him to the attention of a vicious killer of women, women of the night to use a quaint phrase, and a surefire way to commit the “perfect murder” and like so many before him said murderer thought he was scot-free as is the usual case once the Lincoln lawyer was on the case. But see, said Lincoln lawyer “got religion” along the way after he and those around him were slated to take the fall if that vicious killer (a mommy’s boy to boot) got tripped up.

So you know damn well pretty early on that our trusty Lincoln lawyer is not taking the fall and, moreover, is going to see that an actual piece of real justice occurs in the process by the freeing a framed man who was sitting in stir through his negligence (and disbelief in innocence) by seeing that that vicious killer gets his jolt up at Q. Therefore you see we had it all wrong. There is some rough justice in the world. And one had better not kill off all those lawyers if there is going to be even that amount. The twists and turns getting there, although fairly well-worn by now in movie-dom, are what make this film one to see.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

***In The Matter Of The Zen Western- Johnny Depp’s Dead Man- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Johnny Depp’s Dead Man.

DVD Review

Dead Man, starring Johnny Depp, Robert Mitchum, eerily edgy music by Neil Young, Miramax 1995

Sure, I have taken plenty of shots at variations on the great American West, past and present, from Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove to The Last Picture Show from The Wild Bunch to Crazy Hearts and everything in between. As well, I have always been glad, glad as hell, to review any movie starring Johnny Depp that might come my way. So here we have the combination of Johnny Depp as, well, Johnny Depp as usual (except maybe for those seemingly endless Pirate sequels) taking on an edgy role that less talented or more timid male actors would have walked away from, way a way from.

No one doubts that the old Hollywood (and dime store novel) vision of the old John Wayne "howdy, partner" American West is long gone. And with the ground-breaking work of The Wild Bunch back in the 1970d we have seen, well we have seen, more plausibly views of that old time West, including some pretty unsavory characters in search of fame and fortune around the edges of the great frontier before it melted at the turn of the 20th century. That pasting of the frontier, of course, did not stop anybody with the least carefree spirit or who was just plain tired of the “civilized” East from heading by anyway they could to the great expanses of the old-time West. And that is where William Blake (played by Johnny Depp), no not the 18th century mad man English poet and supporter of the ideals of the French Revolution (although that mistake plays a part in the plot), but an accountant, for god’s sake, enters the story.

William Blake’s transformation into a man of the West complete with notches on his revolver, seemingly in slow-motion at times and all in black and white, is what drives this curious film. We have an educated “savage," Native American, savage white man bounty-hunters, a twisted rich land-owners (played by the late Robert Mitchum) and every mangy "old dog" who made it, or did not make it in the West. And every pathology known to humankind showed its face in this fierce portrayal of the West but also, a very surprising positive portrayal of Native American culture and its demise with the advance of the white man. William Blake, accountant, is one of Johnny Depp’s edgier performances, no question, and if you can stay with the zen aspect of the thing a very well done performance. Not for everyone, and certainly not for those who might still be clinging to some John Wayne idea of the West.

In Honor Of The “Old Man”- On The 71st Anniversary Of The Death Of Leon Trotsky- A Speech To The Youth On Trotsky By Joseph Hansen

Click on the headline to link to a review of the early life of Leon Trotsky in his political memoir, My Life.

Markin comment:

Every year at this time we honor the memory of the great Russian revolutionary leader, Leon Trotsky, a man who not only was able theoretically to articulate the arc of the Russian Revolution of 1917 (the theory of permanent revolution) but personally led the defend of that revolution against world imperialism and its internal Russian White Guard agents. Oh yes, and also wrote a million pro-communist articles, did a little turn at literary criticism, acted in various Soviet official capacities, led the Communist International, led the opposition first in Russia and then internationally to the Stalinist degeneration of that revolution, and created a new revolutionary international (the Fourth International) to rally the demoralized international working class movement in the face of Hitlerite reaction. To speak nothing of hunting, fishing, raising rabbits, collecting cactii and chasing Frida Kahlo around Mexico (oops, on that last one). In short, as I have characterized him before, the closest that this sorry old world has come to producing a complete communist man within the borders of bourgeois society (except that last thing, that skirt-chasing thing, although maybe not). All honor to his memory. Forward to new Octobers!

Usually on this anniversary I place a selection of Trotsky’s writings on various subjects in this space. This year, having found a site that has material related to his family life, the effect of his murder on that family, and other more personal details of his life I am placing that material here in his honor. The forward to new Octobers still goes, though.
Joseph Hansen
A Speech To The Youth on Trotsky
(August 1941)

Source: Fourth International, Vol.2 No.8, October 1941, pp.239-242.
Excerpts from a speech delivered at the Trotsky Memorial Meeting on August 22, 1941, in New York City.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2005; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

In her article in the August, 1941 issue of the Fourth International, Natalia Sedov Trotsky tries to give us a more intimate picture of Leon Trotsky, to let us see something of the man whose name stands for Marxism today. Natalia’s contributions not only have a priceless historical value for those unborn generations who will comb the records of the past in order to get a better picture of the founders of the classless society, but they have a political value as well. Natalia has solid political judgment in her own right. She is a woman in every respect worthy of Trotsky.

Her writings give us a deeper insight into Trotsky’s character and enable those who aspire to become leaders in the revolutionary struggle of the working class to better shape their talents in conformity with the great aim they have chosen.

One of the quickest ways of learning an art is to take a master-craftsman in that art and imitate him closely. Every apprentice anxious to learn selects someone whom he knows or a great name in his field and strives to reach the perfection of the model he has chosen. Writers when they first begin usually imitate a great writer or a series of great writers of the past. Painters and sculptors do likewise. Military men select Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Napoleon.

It is only natural that a youth joining the revolutionary movement should take Trotsky as his model and hope that some day he can be as adept in the science and art of proletarian revolution, granting his more modest talents, as was Trotsky. Such a goal is wholly normal and praiseworthy. It is reported that John Keats, who became one of the great romantic poets of England, would content himself with no one less than Shakespeare as a model when he set out to become a poet, and in that he was correct.

The danger in choosing Trotsky as one’s model lies in the possible discouragement which can come when one has reached that stage of development were he can begin to appreciate Trotsky’s true stature as a revolutionist.

Trotsky’s titanic intellect and his vast political experience during some of the most turbulent decades of human history are compressed into a relatively few volumes. Trotsky’s works are so polished, their logic so unshakeable, their insight into characters, events, movements of parties and classes so profound, that the revolutionary apprentice is inclined to throw up his hands and say, “No one can ever hope to equal that – it is better to choose a pattern of more modest scope.” When he recalls that Trotsky was renowned as best of the best, as an orator, as an organizer, as an administrator – when he understands Trotsky’s role in leading the armed insurrection of October – when he appreciates Trotsky’s colossal work in building the Red Army, in directing the armed defense of the Soviet Union against the interventionist armies of the imperialist world, and adds on top of this his work in founding with Lenin the Third International, and then the Fourth International, the young comrade is ready to say, “Such a man occurs only once.”

And he will be saying the truth. There can be only one Trotsky.

But that is not the whole truth. Trotsky did not walk off a farm near Odessa and immediately sit down to write his History of the Russian Revolution. Besides those of his own personal characteristics which he could shape to one degree or another, there was the past which he could use as a foundation and there were world events to do the final molding.

We Stand on Their Shoulders

The higher development of the class struggle made it possible for Lenin and Trotsky to begin where the founders of scientific socialism were forced by death to leave off. Trotsky developed his theory of the permanent revolution, through which he was able to predict the course of the 1917 revolution, more than twelve years before the event. Lenin developed his concept of a professional revolutionary party which made the success of that revolution possible.

That is why Trotsky could predict that the future development of socialism, and especially in the United States, will bring forth dialectical materialists – those who profess the revolutionary philosophy of Marx – superior to those of the past, great as they have been.

When one stops to think why this must obviously be so, with the increase of knowledge and experience available to the new generations, then it begins to seem strange that anyone among the youth should feel discouraged about trying to develop his talents in the pattern furnished by Trotsky. The rich heritage of our party in the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky will provide the material for theoretical grounding. If we stop to recall the revolutionary movement at the beginning of the past war and especially in the United States in 1918, we can say that the revolutionaries at the beginning of the Second World War are far richer in theory and experience.

And the crisis of capitalism in its death agony provides one revolutionary situation after another. Even though the immediate period may isolate us still further, that period will be followed by tremendous expansion of all the forces of the Fourth International.

The youth of today enjoy the privilege of standing higher on the rungs of history than their predecessors. We have not only the revolution of 1848 and the Paris Commune, we have 1905 and October. We have not only Marx and Engels, we have Lenin and Trotsky.

How Trotsky Joined the Movement

Trotsky entered the revolutionary movement in much the same way that many of us have entered. He rebelled against the oppression which existed on every side. He was filled with protest that had no outlet and which he himself undoubtedly did not understand at the time. He felt it as an urge to “perfect himself.” When he encountered socialists, he ridiculed them, considered them utopians, counted himself as conservative, argued vehemently with them. In fact, the more he was convinced by their arguments, and the more he felt the ground crumbling under his feet, the harder he argued to maintain himself – just like the rest of us began.

When he finally became convinced that the only hope for humanity lay in the working class, he joined wholeheartedly in spreading these new ideas. He wrote leaflets, ran them off on a home-made duplicator, got his fingers as thoroughly inked as if it were the most modern mimeograph.

Trotsky next found himself up against the ideology of Marxism, and he was not easily convinced of its correctness. Just as he had struggled against accepting socialism in general, so he struggled against Marxism. It seemed too rigid to him, too finished a philosophy, too closed a system. But in arguing with Marxism, he discovered that he was ignorant. Not a few of us, no doubt, have experienced that same embarrassment at one time or another, especially the first time we encountered a well-equipped Marxist.

Trotsky set about to remedy his ignorance. He read desperately, at first with little system, skipping haphazardly from one author to another. During his first imprisonment, he had the opportunity to read at his leisure, and in the development of the events of the past, he discovered for himself the truth of the laws formulated by Marx and Engels.

Trotsky’s third great hurdle was Lenin’s “organizational methods.” His struggle over accepting Lenin’s concepts took the longest time. This is understandable, since Lenin’s theories on organization were a basic innovation in the international socialist movement and had not been proved in practise. In addition Lenin met the opposition of the great figures of the European socialist movement, who spoke with tremendous authority as disciples of Marx and Engels and leaders of the huge Social Democracy.

For some years, Trotsky did not hesitate to deal stiff polemical blows against Lenin and his organizational methods. What is important, however, is that during the war and in the crucible of the Russian revolution, Trotsky recognized the correctness of Lenin’s views and joined Lenin’s party.

The knowledge that it was necessary for Trotsky to go through the same internal struggles that everyone experiences in his development as a Marxist should prove a source of encouragement to all of us. Trotsky even had to break with his family at the beginning, although the rupture was later healed. He had to disappoint his father who wanted him to take up a career as an engineer. He had to disappoint his mother who wanted him to be a good boy and who came to see him behind the bars at Kherson after his first arrest and cried over his conduct.

For some years Trotsky was held up as the bad example in the family circle. His cousin who made a fortune in Siberia during the Russo-Japanese war was held up as the good example. But Trotsky was not out to make himself a rich bourgeois – he was out to expropriate the entire class. After the revolution, his cousin called Trotsky up by telephone. He had lost everything and wanted Trotsky to do something for him.

What Made Trotsky Great?

What qualities gave Trotsky his pre-eminence? What did he have which ordinary men do not possess or do not possess to such a striking degree as Trotsky? Let me enumerate a few of the more prominent characteristics of Trotsky.

He was gifted with a prodigious memory, and especially a memory for theories. His practise of reading over his previous articles coupled with his perception of the logic of events sharpened this memory still further. In 1938 for example, he translated a speech which he had made in 1924 in a scientific congress. We took the finished draft to Trotsky for his approval. He returned it shortly with a question mark on one of the pages. “What is wrong with the translation?” we asked him. “I think there is a sentence missing here.” he responded. Trotsky was correct. We had missed a sentence in a speech he had made fourteen years before.

He was gifted with remarkable quickness of perception. He was completely honest – by that 1 mean honest to the working class. He was a fighter.

But there were others of his generation who had similar gifts – men who became famous as theoreticians, journalists, politicians – such men as Plekhanov, Parvus, who had a brilliant career before him, and Martov. None of them reached the heights of Trotsky, however, despite the fact they lived through the same great events and were even revolutionaries. All of them lacked one quality that was the characteristic of Trotsky – will power.

Trotsky’s will was absolutely indomitable. It radiated from his very presence, his bearing, his vigorous manner of speech, his impatience of opposition if he was certain that he was correct. More than once I had occasion to feel this iron trait of Trotsky when I had not succeeded in convincing him that he had taken an incorrect position on some small issue.

His writings are permeated with this unbreakable will. It is especially apparent in the scathing sarcasm he heaps upon the enemies of the working class. His whole life’s course speaks of this will – nothing could break him, prisons, exile, expulsions, persecution, slander, death itself.

Trotsky was undoubtedly endowed with an unusual amount of energy. He learned to use this energy in a highly disciplined manner, concentrating and directing its firing power where it would be most effective. Ordinary people dissipate what energy they begin with and stifle any possibility of increasing its flow by splitting their interests into contradictory channels. They no sooner begin an enterprise than they are halted in their tracks by the paralyzing thought that maybe they should be doing something else.

Trotsky, once having made up his mind, threw himself with complete abandon into the project. This was true of the smallest things. His secretaries tell how in France Trotsky insisted on helping with the housework. The comrades did not wish him to leave his study, but the best deal they could make with him was that he should do no more than wipe the dishes. However, he proved to be a bottleneck in the production line of the kitchen as he would insist upon bringing the dishes to such a high polish that they glistened like jewels and the rest of the work had to await his completion of this task. It was the same in his recreation. In Turkey his secretaries tell me stories of being dragged from bed at 3:30 and 4 o’clock in the morning, their eyes still glued with sleep, to go out fishing with Trotsky who was all dynamic energy after a previous hard day’s work. In Mexico many of the American comrades had the privilege of climbing up and down the hot Mexican hills, acting as burros to carry the cactus which Trotsky dug from the countryside.

How Trotsky Worked

But this tremendous energy was especially apparent at his work desk. He chained himself here, working from early in the morning until late at night with just brief periods of rest and time out for meals. He worked like this no matter what the task at hand might happen to be, whether it was the disagreeable work of combatting the GPU, writing Stalin’s biography, or something which he enjoyed such as writing for the press of the Fourth International.

During the last Moscow trial he organized the work of his secretariat down to the least detail. I remember him walking up and down with a New York Times in his hand which had been airmailed from New York with the complete indictment. He had covered it with notations in red and blue pencil, studied it from end to end, and he organized his secretariat as if it were a small army. We stood at attention while he outlined what we should do, asked for proposals and discussion. We divided up the work, this comrade and that comrade to work on translations, this one to take care of press relations, this one to do research work, etc., etc.

This done, we all went on the firing line and Trotsky himself worked harder than any of us. In one day I recall he made five press releases, one of them a long article for a London paper. Some of his secretaries worked 22 hours at a stretch. It was through such work, in collaboration with others who provided material from New York and other cities, that Trotsky was able to completely expose the falsity of this frameup as he had the previous Moscow trials.

When I see our comrades on the street gathering signatures on the petitions to place James P. Cannon on the ballot for mayor of New York, I think how Trotsky would have plunged into such a campaign, how he would have enjoyed organizing an all-out battle to put James P. Cannon on the ballot in New York. He would have blocked out all the districts on the map, held meetings, consulted comrades, and then seen to it that everyone carried out his assignment. He himself would have been everywhere, checking this neighborhood and that neighborhood. I can see him even standing on a street corner with petition blanks in his hand, arguing in a kindly but vehement tone with the crowd about him, but at the same time not losing a single opportunity for signatures.

Trotsky’s whole life was like that. He chose his main objective – one single objective – to fight for the socialist revolution. From the time he made that decision, everything he did had no other purpose but to further this one aim. This singleness of purpose made it possible for Trotsky to focus his energy and to so thoroughly synthesize it with his other gifts that they in turn received a richer development and he became the very incarnation of the proletarian revolution.

But even such a man is subject to the ebb and flow of the tides of the class struggle. In the final analysis no one can do more than give expression to one or another force of the contending camps. Creatures embodying all the vilest dregs of the past can rise to power when a revolution subsides. After the upheaval, a period of reaction sets in, and it is in such periods that the sternest tests are placed upon a revolutionary. He is deserted, isolated, hounded, slandered, imprisoned, tortured, sometimes faces death. The labor movement seems like a vast tomb during gloomy years until a new upturn begins.

Some of Trotsky’s greatest work was done in such a period – the period climaxed by the Second World War the period in which Trotsky became the target upon which every reactionary force in the world vented its furious hatred During this period he laid down the theoretical structure for a new International of the working class. He exposed the crimes of the monstrous Stalinist bureaucracy before the eyes of the whole world. And he taught and hardened the cadres who will continue the Marxist movement.

The founding of the Fourth International may well go down in history as Trotsky’s crowning achievement. Trotsky’s unflinching struggle in the teeth of the most terrible persecution is one of the most valuable lessons he has given us.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In Honor Of The “Old Man”- On The 71st Anniversary Of The Death Of Leon Trotsky-With Trotsky To The End By Joseph Hansen

Click on the headline to link to a review of the early life of Leon Trotsky in his political memoir, My Life.

Markin comment:

Every year at this time we honor the memory of the great Russian revolutionary leader, Leon Trotsky, a man who not only was able theoretically to articulate the arc of the Russian Revolution of 1917 (the theory of permanent revolution) but personally led the defend of that revolution against world imperialism and its internal Russian White Guard agents. Oh yes, and also wrote a million pro-communist articles, did a little turn at literary criticism, acted in various Soviet official capacities, led the Communist International, led the opposition first in Russia and then internationally to the Stalinist degeneration of that revolution, and created a new revolutionary international (the Fourth International) to rally the demoralized international working class movement in the face of Hitlerite reaction. To speak nothing of hunting, fishing, raising rabbits, collecting cactii and chasing Frida Kahlo around Mexico (oops, on that last one). In short, as I have characterized him before, the closest that this sorry old world has come to producing a complete communist man within the borders of bourgeois society (except that last thing, that skirt-chasing thing, although maybe not). All honor to his memory. Forward to new Octobers!

Usually on this anniversary I place a selection of Trotsky’s writings on various subjects in this space. This year, having found a site that has material related to his family life, the effect of his murder on that family, and other more personal details of his life I am placing that material here in his honor. The forward to new Octobers still goes, though.
Joseph Hansen
With Trotsky to the End
(October 1940)

Source: Fourth International, Vol.1 No.5, October 1940, pp.115-123.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2005; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

Since the May 24 machine-gun attack by the GPU on Trotsky’s bedroom, the house at Coyoacan had been converted into a virtual fortress. The guard was increased, more heavily armed. Bullet proof doors and windows were installed. A redoubt was constructed with bomb-proof ceilings and floors. Double steel doors, controlled by electric switches, replaced the old wooden entrance where Robert Sheldon Harte had been surprised and kidnapped by the GPU assailants. Three new bullet-proof towers dominated not only the patio but the surrounding neighborhood. Barbed wire entanglements and bomb-proof nets were being prepared.

All this construction had been made possible through the sacrifices of the sympathizers and members of the Fourth International, who did their utmost to protect Trotsky, knowing that it was absolutely certain that Stalin would attempt another and more desperate assault after the failure of the May 24 attack. The Mexican government, which alone of all the nations on the earth had offered asylum to Trotsky in 1937, tripled the number of police guards on duty outside the house, doing everything in its power to safeguard the life of the world’s most noted exile.

Only the form of the coming attack was unknown. Another machine gun assault with an increased number of assailants? Bombs? Sapping? Poisoning?

August 20, 1940

I was on the roof near the main guard tower with Charles Cornell and Melquiades Benitez. We were connecting a powerful siren with the alarm system for use when the GPU attacked again. Late in the afternoon, between 5:20 and 5:30, Jacson, known to us as a sympathizer of the Fourth International and as the husband of Sylvia Ageloff, former member of the Socialist Workers Party, drove up in his Buick sedan. Instead of parking it with the radiator facing the house, as was his usual custom, he made a complete turn in the street, parking the car parallel to the wall, nose pointed towards Coyoacan. When he got out of the car, he waved to us on the roof and shouted, “Has Sylvia arrived yet?”

We were somewhat surprised. We did not know that Trotsky had made an appointment with Sylvia and Jacson, but ascribed our lack of knowledge of such an appointment to an oversight by Trotsky, something not uncommon on his part in such matters.

“No.” I responded to Jacson: “wait a moment.” Cornell then operated the electrical controls on the double doors and Harold Robins received the visitor in the patio. Jacson won a raincoat across his arm. It was the rainy season, and although the sun was shining, heavy clouds massed over the mountains to the southwest threatened a downpour.

Trotsky was in the patio feeding the rabbits and chickens—his way of obtaining light exercise in the confined life he was forced to follow. We expected that as was his usual custom, Trotsky would not enter the house until he had finished with the feeding or until Sylvia had arrived. Robins was in the patio. Trotsky was not in the habit of seeing Jacson alone.

Melquiades, Cornell and I continued with our work. During the next ten or fifteen minutes I sat in the main tower writing the names of the guards on white labels to be affixed to the switches connecting their rooms with the alarm system.

A fearful cry wrent the afternoon calm—a cry prolonged and agonized, half scream, half sob. It dragged me to my feet, chilled to the bone. I ran from the guard-house out onto the roof. An accident to one of the ten workers who were remodeling the house? Sounds of violent struggle came from the Old Man’s study, and Melquiades was pointing a rifle at the window below. Trotsky, in his blue work jacket became visible there for a moment, fighting body to body with someone.

“Don’t shoot!” I shouted to Melquiades, “you might hit the Old Man!” Melquiades and Cornell stayed on the roof, covering the exits from the study. Switching on the general alarm, I slid down the ladder into the library. As I entered the door connecting the library with the dining room the Old Man stumbled out of his study a few feet away blood streaming down his face.

“See what they have done to me!” he said.

At the same moment Harold Robins came through the north door of the dining room with Natalia following. Throwing her arms frantically about him, Natalia took Trotsky out on to the balcony. Harold and I had made for Jacson, who stood in the study gasping, face knotted, arms limp, automatic pistol dangling in his hand. Harold was closer to him. “You take care of him,” I said, “I’ll see what’s happened to the Old Man.” Even as I turned, Robins brought the assassin down to the floor.

Trotsky staggered back into the dining room, Natalia sobbing, trying to help him. “See what they have done.” she said. As I put my arm about him, the Old Man collapsed near the dining room table.

The wound on his head appeared at first glance to be superficial. I had heard no shot. Jacson must have struck with some instrument. “What happened?” I asked the Old Man.

“Jackson shot me with a revolver; I am seriously wounded ... I feel that this time it is the end.” “It’s only a surface wound. You will recover,” I tried to reassure him.

“We talked about French statistics,” responded the Old Man.

“Did he hit you from behind?” I asked.

Trotsky did not answer.

“No he did not shoot you,” I said; “we didn’t hear any shot. He struck you with something.”

Trotsky looked doubtful; pressed my hand. Between the sentences we exchanged, he talked with Natalia in Russian. He touched her hand continually to his lips.

I scrambled back up to the roof, shouted to the police across the wall; “Get an ambulance!” I told Cornell and Melquiades: “it’s an assault—Jacson ...” MY wrist watch read at that moment ten minutes to six.

Again I was at the Old Man’s side, Cornell with me. Without waiting for the ambulance from the city, we decided that Cornell should go for Dr. Dutren, who lived nearby, and who had attended the family on previous occasions. Since our car was locked up in the garage behind double doors, Cornell decided to take Jacson’s car standing in the street.

As Cornell left the room, sounds of renewed struggle came from the study where Robins was holding Jacson.

“Tell the boys not to kill him,” the Old Man said, “he must talk”.

I left Trotsky with Natalia, and entered the study. Jacson was trying desperately to escape from Robins. His automatic pistol lay on the table nearby. On the floor was a bloodspattered instrument which looked to me like a prospector’s pick, but with the backside hammered out like a pick-axe. I joined in the struggle with Jacson, hitting him in the mouth and on the jaw below the ear, breaking my hand.

As Jacson regained consciousness, he moaned; “They have imprisoned my mother ... Sylvia Ageloff had nothing to do with this ... No, it was NOT the GPU; I have NOTHING to do with the GPU ...” He placed heavy stress on the words which would separate him from the GPU, as if he had suddenly remembered that the script of his role called here for a loud voice. But he had already betrayed himself. When Robins brought the assassin down, Jacson had evidently believed it was his last moment. He had writhed in terror; words he could not control had escaped from his lips: “They MADE me do it.” He had told the truth. The GPU had made him do it.

Cornell burst into the study. “The keys aren’t in his car.” He tried to find the keys in Jacson’s clothing but without success. While he searched, I ran out to open the garage doors. In a few seconds Cornell was on his way with our car.

We waited for Cornell to return—Natalia and I kneeling at the Old Man’s side, holding his hands. Natalia had wiped the blood from his face and placed a block of ice against his head, which was already swelling.

“He hit you with a pick,” I told the Old Man. “He did not shoot you. I am sure it is only a surface wound.”

“No,” he responded, “I feel here ”(indicating his heart) “that this time they have succeeded.”

I tried to reassure him, “No, it’s only a surface wound; you’ll get better.

But the Old Man only smiled faintly with his eyes. He understood ...

“Take care of Natalia. She has been with me many, many years.” He pressed my hand as he gazed at her. He seemed to be drinking in what her features were like, as if he were leaving her forever—in these fleeting seconds compressing all the past into a last glance.

“We will,” I promised. My voice seemed to flash among the three of us the understanding that this was really the end. The Old Man pressed our hands convulsively, tears suddenly in his eyes. Natalia cried brokenly, bending over him, kissing his hand.

When Dr. Dutren arrived, the reflexes on the Old Man’s left side were already failing. A few moments later the ambulance came and the police entered the study to drag out the assassin.

Natalia did not wish to let the Old Man be taken to a hospital—it was in a hospital in Paris that their son, Leon Sedov, was killed only two years ago. For a moment or two Trotsky himself, lying stricken on the floor, felt doubtful.

“We will go with you,” I told him.

“I leave it to your decision,” he told me, as if he were now turning everything over to those about him, as if all the days of making decisions were now gone.

Before we placed the Old Man on a stretcher, he again whispered: “I want everything I own to go to Natalia.” Then with a voice that tugged unendurably at all the deepest and most tender feelings in the friends kneeling at his side ... “You will take care of her ...”

Natalia and I made the sad ride with him to the hospital. His right hand wandered over the sheets covering him, touched the water basin near his head, found Natalia. Already the streets were jammed with people, all the workers and the poor lining the way as the ambulance sirened behind a squadron of motorcycle police through the traffic on its way to the center of the city. Trotsky whispered, pulling me down insistently near his lips so that I should not fail to hear:

“He was a political assassin. Jacson was a member of the GPU or a fascist. Most likely the GPU.” Impressions of Jacson were going through the Old Man’s mind. In the few words left to him, he was telling me the course he thought should be followed in our analysis of the assault, on the basis of the facts already in our possession:—Stalin’s GPU is guilty but we must leave open the possibility that they were aided by Hitler’s Gestapo. He did not know that Stalin’s calling card in the form of a “confession” was in the assassin’s pocket.

The Last Hours

At the hospital, the most prominent doctors in Mexico gathered in consultation.

The Old Man, exhausted, wounded to death, eyes almost closed, looked in my direction from the narrow hospital bed, moved his right hand feebly. “Joe, you ... have ... notebook?” How many times he had asked me this same question!—but in vigorous tones, with the subtle innuendo he enjoyed at our expense about “American efficiency.” Now his voice was thick, words scarcely distinguishable. He spoke with great effort, fighting against the encroaching darkness. I leaned against the bed. His eyes seemed to have lost all that quick flash of mobile intelligence so characteristic of the Old Man. His eyes were fixed, Is if no longer aware of the outside world, and yet I felt his enormous will power holding away the extinguishing darkness, refusing to concede to his foe until he had accomplished one last task. Slowly, haltingly, he dictated, choosing the words of his last message to the working class painfully in English, a language that was foreign to him. On his death-bed he did not let himself forget that his secretary spoke no Russian!

“I am close to death from the blow of a political assassin ... struck me down in my room. I struggled with him ... we ... entered ... talk about French statistics ... he struck me ... Please say to our friends ... I am sure ... of the victory ... of the Fourth International ... Go forward.”

He tried to talk more; but the words were incomprehensible. His voice died away, the tired eyes closed. He never regained consciousness. This was about two and a half hours after the blow was struck.

An x-ray picture was taken of the wound and the doctors decide that an immediate operation was necessary. The surgeon in charge of the hospital performed the delicate work of trepanning in the presence of leading Mexican specialists and the family doctors. They discovered that the pick-axe had penetrated seven centimeters, destroying considerable brain tissue. Some of these doctors declared the case absolutely hopeless. Others gave the Old Man a fighting chance.

For more than twenty-two hours after the operation, despair alternated with the desperate hope that he would survive. In the United States friends arranged to send a world famous brain specialist, Dr. Walter E. Dandy of Johns Hopkins, by airplane. Hour after agonized hour we listened to the Old Man’s heavy breathing as he lay on the hospital bed. With his head shaved and bandaged he bore a startling resemblance to Lenin. We thought of the days when they had led the first victorious working class revolution. Natalia refused to leave the room, refused food, watched dry-eyed, hands clenched, knuckles white, as the hours passed one by one during that long, horrible night and the endless following day. The reports of the doctors noted favorable signs, an occasional improvement, and up until the very last, we still felt that somehow this man who had survived the Czar’s prisons, exiles, three revolutions, the Moscow trials, would survive this unspeakably treacherous blow of Stalin.

But the Old Man was over sixty years old. He had been in ill health for a number of months. At 7:25 p.m. on August 21, he entered the final crisis. The doctors worked for twenty minutes, utilizing all the scientific methods at their disposal, but not even adrenalin could revive the great heart and mind which Stalin had destroyed with a pick-axe.

What Happened in the Study

On August 17 Jacson showed Trotsky a draft of an article he intended to write on the recent dispute in the Fourth International over the Russian question. Trotsky invited Jacson to come into his study while he read the draft. This was the first time Jacson was alone there with Trotsky. To Jacson it meant that the time was ripe. It was a dress rehearsal for what the GPU had ordered him to do.

Trotsky offered a few suggestions to the author, but told Natalia that the draft showed confusion and was without particular interest.

On August 20, Jacson came to the house with the finished article. Under the title The Third Camp and the Popular Front, it ostensibly dealt with the Burnham-Shachtman theory of a “Third Camp” in the World War. The idea of the article, a comparison of the class basis of the “Third Camp” with that of the French Popular Front was not Jacson’s, but an idea first expressed to my knowledge by Otto Schuesler, one of the secretaries of Trotsky. Jacson picked up the idea in conversation with the guards and wrote some kind of an article for no other purpose than to cause Trotsky to sit down at his desk in a helpless position while he raised the pickaxe from behind.

It was Jacson’s plan, apparently, to kill Trotsky with one blow, silently, and then to leave the house as he had come, without arousing attention—with his revolver gripped in his pocket in case it was necessary to shoot his way out. He carried a large sum of money in his pocket—$890—indicating that he hoped to escape. Besides this, he carried a letter of “confession”, obviously dictated by the GPU – planted on him for discovery by the police in the event he was shot by the guards. He expected either to escape or be killed.

Jacson met Trotsky near the rabbit hutches, told him that he had brought the finished article, that he and Sylvia were leaving for New York the following day. Trotsky responded with his typical cordiality, but continued placing dried alfalfa in the feed troughs.

Catching sight of Natalia on the balcony between the kitchen and the dining room, Jacson left Trotsky. He wore his hat, kept his raincoat pressed close to his body as he advanced to make his greeting.

To Natalia he appeared nervous and absent minded, as if he were in deep abstraction. Jacson asked her for a glass of water; he was very “thirsty” he explained. Natalia offend him tea, as she and Trotsky had just finished their customary afternoon cup and there was still some left in the pot. Jacson refused, however, saying that he had eaten but a short while before—”the food is still sticking in my throat.”

After drinking the glass of water, he returned with Natalia to Trotsky’s side at the rabbit hutches. “You know that Jacson and Sylvia are returning to New York tomorrow?” asked Trotsky. “They have come to say goodbye.” Then in Russian: “We should prepare something for them.”

A few minutes conversation passed before Trotsky without enthusiasm asked, “You wish me to read your article?”


“Good, we can go into the study.”

Without notifying any of his guards, Trotsky took Jacson into his room. Natalia parted from them at the door and went into the kitchen.

Later, as he lay bleeding on the dining room floor, Trotsky told Natalia that it flashed across his mind as he entered the room, “This man could kill me.” But he did not listen to the intuitive warning from the subconscious layers of his mind. As a proletarian revolutionist, Trotsky had carried his life in his hands for too many years.

Trotsky seated himself at the wide table, scattered with books, newspapers, manuscripts. Near an ink-well a few inches from his hand lay his .25 calibre automatic—it had been oiled and reloaded just a few days before. He began reading Jacson’s article. Jacson sat behind and to the left of Trotsky, near the switch that would set off the alarm system.

“The opportunity was too good to be lost,” Jacson told the police afterward. “I took the ’piolet’. I raised it up high. I shut my eyes and struck with all my strength ... As long as I live I can never forget his cry ...”

Trotsky staggered up from his seat as the assassin wrenched the weapon loose and struck again at his victim’s face. Chairs were broken, papers and books scattered, the dictaphone smashed, blood spattered over the desk, on the books, the newspapers—on the last pages of the manuscript of Trotsky’s biography of Stalin.

Could We Have Prevented It?

In the morning here at the house in Coyoacan when I am half awake, it still seems that I can hear the Old Man’s voice calling. Sometimes it seems that he is impatient, as if he were anxious that the day should begin energetically—as if then were mountainous tasks before us and only a few short hours left. Every stone, every turn in the paths, even the shade from the tall pines where the Old Man used to talk with us in the patio is a memory, keen, raw, painful ... The Old Man is everywhere. And yet the house seems empty and vacant, like a ruin left long ago to crumble into dust.

Couldn’t we have prevented it?

When I feel like this—the intolerable burden of what might have been, I remember the pressure of his hand as he lay on the floor.

I remember what he said about his escape in the May 24 assault: “In war, accidents are inevitable, favorable accidents and unfavorable—it is a part of war.”

I remember Natalia’s words: “On the morning of August 20, when we got up, L.D. said, ’Another lucky day. We are still alive.’ He had repeated that every morning since May 24.”

Trotsky knew that Stalin had decreed his death. He knew that Stalin counted on the assassination being lost in the titanic events of the Second World War where whole states are wiped out and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of human beings means no more than a brief headline in the daily dispatches from the battlefields. Trotsky knew that against all the enormous resources of the powerful state apparatus controlled by Stalin, were pitted only the courage and woefully inadequate means of a small handful of revolutionaries. Trotsky knew that all the tactical advantages were with the enemy; the chosen moment, surprise, the ability to attack a fixed position with a number of variant methods. It was virtually certain that with enough attempts, one time sooner or later the accidents of war would be unfavorable to us. Trotsky even predicted that the next assault would occur when Hitler launched his battle against England.

Trotsky’s politics were never the politics of despair. He fought with every ounce of his energy; nevertheless many times during the month in which we constructed our “fortress”, I knew that he felt himself doomed.

“I will not see the next revolution,” he told me once, “that is for your generation.” I felt in his words a deep regret—what pleasure to see the class struggle in its next stage of development, what keen joy to participate in one more revolution—what vistas opening for the human race in the coming period!

“It is not like before,” he said again. “We are old—we don’t have the energy of the younger generation. One becomes tired ... and old ... It is for your generation, the next revolution. We will not see it.”

Yet Trotsky carried on despite the fact that he knew all the probabilities were against his personal survival. He was fighting against time, steeling the Fourth International, arming it with the ideas of Bolshevism.

Each day in this period of world war, of factional struggles, was of immeasurable value to the new generation of revolutionary cadres. Trotsky knew it better than anyone. He wanted to hand us intact the entire heritage of Bolshevism which was in his charge, even down to the smallest item. He anew what that heritage had cost, what it was worth to us in the epoch now opening before us. The time was so short!

Since September 1937 Trotsky’s secretaries tried to institute a system in the household whereby everyone who entered would be searched for concealed weapons. They also attempted to make it an iron rule that Trotsky was never to talk with anyone alone in his study. Trotsky could not endure either of these rules. Either we trust the people and admit them without search, or we do not admit them at all. He could not bear having his friends submit to search. No doubt he felt that in any case it would be useless and could even give us a false sense of security. If a GPU agent succeeded in entering, he would find some way of setting at naught what search we could make. Trotsky had dozens upon dozens of friends in Mexico, whom the guards – so far as their vigilance was concerned – placed in the same general category as Jacson before the assault. As to our second proposal that someone should always remain with him in his study, this too was never effective. So many of his guests had personal problems—would not talk freely in the presence of a guard! Sometimes I was able to remain in the room merely by sitting down contrary to Trotsky’s instructions to leave, but both he and I felt uncomfortable about it, and he would never permit this discourtesy from anyone else. Trotsky was the builder of the political party and a worker in the field of ideas. He preferred to trust his friends rather than to suspect them.

All of Trotsky’s guards tried to make themselves suspicious of everyone. Trotsky, however, was interested not only in being guarded, but in teaching his guards by example some of the fundamentals of organizing a political movement. Mutual suspicion in his eyes was a disintegrating force much worse than the inclusion of a spy in the organization, since such suspicions are useless anyway in uncovering a highly skilled provocateur. Trotsky hated personal suspicion towards the members and sympathizers of the Fourth International. He considered it worse than the evil it was supposed to cure.

Whenever this subject came up, he was fond of telling the story of Malinovsky, who became a member of the Political Bureau of the Bolshevik Party, its representative in the Duma and a trusted confidant of Lenin. Malinovsky was at the same time an agent of the Czar’s secret police, the dread Okhrana. He sent hundreds of Bolsheviks into exile and to death. Nevertheless, in order to maintain his position of confidence, it was necessary for him to spread the ideas of Bolshevism. These ideas eventually caused his downfall. The proletarian revolution is more powerful than the most cunning police spy.

Could the guards have prevented the assassination of Trotsky? With more precaution could they have prevented Jacson from ingratiating himself into the household? From using a more subtle method? Poisoning? A shot from ambush on a picnic? direct suicidal assault with some weapon especially built by the GPU to escape our limited means of detection?

The GPU itself answered this question through the mouth of its agent, Jacson: “In the next attack, the GPU will use different methods.”

How the Assassin Gained Entry

Jacson came to Mexico in October 1939. According to his story, he was told not to force an entry into the household but to let the meeting be “casual.” He followed his instructions perfectly. For months he did not come near Coyoacan but stayed in Mexico City. When Sylvia Ageloff, his wife, who was well known to the household, came to Mexico, he did not attempt to enter the house with her. But he utilized her to become known to the Rosmer—friends of Trotsky and Natalia since 1913—who were staying at the house after bringing Trotsky’s grandson from France. Through these trusted people he became known by name to the household. Many of the guards knew him, were accustomed to admitting him for a few moments to the patio where he would wait to meet whomever he had come to see. It is absolutely certain that Robert Sheldon Harte knew him and trusted him. But he did not meet Trotsky until after the May 24 assault.

On May 28, the Rosmers were leaving Mexico via Vera Cruz, carrying out the decision of several months before to return home. Jacson had offered, some weeks previously, to take them from Mexico City to the port. He had told them that he went to Vera Cruz every two weeks on business anyway, and could combine this trip with the affairs of his “boss.”

He came out to the house early in the morning, rang the bell and was invited inside to wait until the Rosmers were ready. Trotsky was in the patio, and met Jacson for the first time. They shook hands. Trotsky continued with his chores about the chicken yard. Jacson retired and began speaking to Seva, Trotsky’s grandson, to whom he gave a toy glider. Both Natalia and Trotsky noticed him in Seva’s room and asked Seva what it meant. Jacson then explained the working of the glider to them.

Trotsky with his customary thoughtfulness for others asked Natalia if Jacson should not be invited in. Natalia responded that he must have already had his breakfast. At the table, however, as a matter of courtesy, he was invited to come in and have a seat. He took a cup of coffee. This was the first time Jacson sat down at the table with Trotsky.

Jacson cultivated friendly relations with consummate skill. Already well known for his generosity, his car was at the constant disposal of the household. When he went to New York he left it for the use of the guards. He did small services not only for Trotsky and Natalia, but also for everyone connected with the house. When friends were visiting, he took them sightseeing. If it was necessary to make a trip, he offered his car and himself as a chauffeur.

In the dispute between the minority and majority, on the Russian question, he supported Trotsky’s position, even against that of his wife, Sylvia Ageloff. In talking with the guards, he was careful to mention the donations he claimed he had given to the French section. He told Jake Cooper that he knew Rudolph Klement; was in Paris when the GPU had foully murdered him. He was fond of mentioning that he had met James P. Cannon in Paris. Thus he built up an impression of himself as one known to our people.

Following the assault of May 24, he entered the house ten times in all before he carried out the GPU order to murder his host. Twice he came with Sylvia Ageloff, had tea with the Trotskys. When Trotsky reviewed the controversy in the Fourth International, Jacson warmly defended Trotsky’s views, attacked those of Sylvia.

Upon one visit he gave Natalia an elaborate box of chocolates, saying that it was a gift from Sylvia.

Nevertheless, Jacson—mainly because he was not a member of the Fourth International and because his political ideas seemed confused and far from being serious—was never accepted as an intimate or a close friend of the house.

When Jacson took a trip to New York after the May 24 assault, returning in the last part of July, he admitted that he had not visited any of the members of the Socialist Workers Party.

“Why!” we asked with astonishment.

Jacson glibly explained that it was because he spent so much time in the evenings arguing with Sylvia and her sisters, trying to convince them that the majority viewpoint was correct, that he didn’t have time to visit so much as the headquarters of the Socialist Workers Party. He said that he spent his days “slaving in an office on Wall Street.”

The fact that he had not contacted the headquarters of the Socialist Workers Party produced a bad impression on the guards, which they communicated to Trotsky. Trotsky responded :

“It is true, of course, that he is rather light minded and will probably not become a strong member of the Fourth International. Nevertheless, he can be won closer. In order to build the party we must have confidence that people can be changed.”

Trotsky added that Jacson was carrying on some studies in French statistics which could prove useful to us.

It is my conviction that Trotsky, who saw the possibility for anyone to develop into a revolutionary, wished to utilize Jacson as an example in point. The very distance which the guards kept between themselves and the apparently difficult job of turning this rather unpromising clay into a revolutionary, spurred Trotsky into making a stronger demonstration. He suggested to me specifically that I should go out of my way to become friendly with Jacson in order to help bring him closer to the Fourth International.

It was precisely at this time that Jacson was plotting how to murder Trotsky.

In a conversation with Jacson, in which Cornell and I participated, Trotsky asked Jacson what he thought of the “fortress.” Jacson responded that everything seemed well done, but “in the next attack the GPU will use other methods.” “What methods?” one of us asked.

Jacson shrugged his shoulders slightly.

Stalin’s Calling Card

When Frank Jacson was taken to the hospital, the police found in his pocket a letter of “confession.” This letter obviously intended for use by the GPU in its propaganda following the assassination, constitutes documentary evidence that Jacson was a paid agent of the GPU. It alone would fix the guilt for Trotsky’s murder directly on the Super-Borgia in the Kremlin.

Like the classic “confessions” manufactured by the GPU for use in the Moscow Trials, the “confessor” starts out as an ardent “Trotskyist,” is ordered on fantastic missions by superiors lacking names, accepts the assignments without murmur, is finally “ordered by Trotsky” to kill Stalin and “spread sabotage in the USSR,” discovers Trotsky is “linked” with a “foreign power” (with whatever power Stalin has not signed a pact), immediately becomes “disillusioned,” repents, acknowledges the genial Stalin to be right and the successor of Lenin, and “confesses” all. This pattern, developed to its finished form by Yagoda in the Lubianka torture chambers has, despite the discovery that Yagoda was a super-poisoner for ten years under Stalin, been repeated now monotonously and with little change.

Jacson’s letter includes a few variations for the local use of North American supporters of the GPU, such as Lombardo Toledano, Harry Block, correspondent of the Nation, and Frank Jellinek, correspondent of PM and the Stalinist “Federated Press.”

These variations include the slander that Trotsky sneered at the Mexican Revolution, supported Almazan. These sentences in Jacson’s letter sound as if they had been lifted bodily from the Mexican organs of the GPU – La Voz de Mexico, Futuro, and El Popular, where Trotsky was accused of being “linked with the Dies Committee,” an “agent of Wall Street” and a “traitor” who committed “self-assault” for no other reason save that of embarrassing the Cardenas government which had given him asylum alone of all the governments in the world.

Jacson claims he was a disillusioned member of the Fourth International. Lie! This was simply an attempt of the GPU to trick world opinion into believing its hands are spotless. Under questioning by the investigating judge he has now admitted he was never a member.

Jacson claims a “member of the Bureau of the Fourth International” sent him to Mexico to see Trotsky because “something more was expected of him than being a simple militant.” Another lie written in the jargon invented by the GPU for the Moscow Trials!

Jacson says that Trotsky ordered him to go to Shanghai, steal the China Clipper, fly across Manchukuo to Russia, and there, without knowing a word of the Russian language, begin spreading sabotage and plotting the death “of the leaders of the USSR!” Recall the Stalin-Hitler dictum: “The grosser the lie, the more readily will people believe it.” Jacson’s letter could not follow this dictum any closer.

The story is more absurd than the story concocted by the GPU in 1936 about the airplane in which Pyatakov was alleged to have flown from Berlin to Oslo in order to help Trotsky make a pact with Hitler.

In Jacson’s letter, the GPU again over-reached itself, succeeded in accomplishing nothing but convincing the world of Stalin’s guilt in the murder of Trotsky.

It is merely necessary to substitute in Jacson’s letter the three letters “GPU” for the “member of the Bureau of the Fourth International.” Then the story told by Jacson as to how he was ordered to go to Mexico to see Trotsky becomes clear. The reasons for the infinite caution and casualness with which he approached the household become apparent. The whole “confession” crumbles before one’s eyes and the truth stands revealed: GPU agent Jacson is lying in the easiest way possible for him—wherever possible he attributes to the Fourth International the actual instructions given him by the GPU.

Who Is “Frank Jacson”?

According to the declarations the assassin made to the police, he was furnished a false passport by “the member of the Bureau of the Fourth International,” who “proposed that he go to Mexico to see Trotsky.” On his final trip to Coyoacan from Mexico City, Jacson claims that he stopped on Avenida Insurgentes and burned this false passport along with his other personal papers. Why did Jacson burn this passport? The reason is not difficult to determine. Forgers always leave certain identifying marks. In the hands of government experts it would have been possible to trace such a passport back to those who falsified it, just as it is possible for experts to trace forged money back to the particular individual who made it. In the case of Jacson’s passport the identifying mark would have been “GPU.”

The passport on which Frank Jacson entered the United States was issued in March 1937 to Tony Babich, resident of Canada and a naturalized British subject, born at Lovinac, Yugoslavia, June 13, 1905. Tony Babich used this passport to travel from Canada ostensibly on a visit to his home. He went to Spain, instead, where he fought in the Loyalist army. On May 12, 1939, the Spanish government issued a death certificate for Tony Babich.

What happened to Tony Babich’s passport?

It is well known that the foreigners who enlisted in the Loyalist army were systematically robbed of their passports by the GPU. Walter Krivitsky, former head of the Soviet Intelligence Service in western Europe, reported that the diplomatic pouches sent to the USSR from Spain carried bundles of these passports in every mail. That is obviously what happened to the passport of Tony Babich. In the hands of the GPU it underwent certain alterations by the most skilled passport forgers in the world. The name of Tony Babich was changed to read “Frank Jacson.” The photograph of Babich was removed and replaced by that of the man who later murdered Trotsky.

The GPU attempts to picture Jacson in his “confession” as a naive lad in the beginning, so gullible that he instantly packed his valises and sent to his mother for $5,000 when the “member of the Bureau of the Fourth International” asked him to go to Mexico. It would be interesting to hear the GPU explain how this innocent “rabbit.” as Jacson labels himself, gained his expert knowledge of passport regulations between the United States and Mexico.

When he left Mexico the last time, he applied at the American Consulate on June 12 for a transit visa to Canada. Apparently he utilized this transit visa to enter the United States without giving up the Mexican tourist card which was issued to him in October 1939. From an information available, he did not apply for a tourist card on his second entry, but merely walked across the border and took passage to Mexico City, exhibiting his original tourist card with its time extension to whatever authorities demanded his credentials. Only a person with an expert acquaintance with these matters could have done this.

When Jacson was struggling with the guards, he cried out several times: ’They have imprisoned my mother!” When he was dragged out of Trotsky’s study, he repeated, “Ma mere! Ma mere!” If he is not a subject of the USSR, it is possible that the Gestapo, as a slight service to Stalin, turned Jacson’s mother, possibly his whole family, over to the GPU, subsequent to the German invasion of the Lowlands and France. Jacson was then threatened with the death of his family if he did not carry out Stalin’s order to assassinate Trotsky. It is possible that Jacson’s story about being born in Persia of Belgian parents is true, but there are many indications that his story about the “Mornard” family and its wealth is a complete fabrication:

1.The Belgian minister in Persia from 1904 to 1908 was not his father, “Mornard Van den Dreschd,’ as Jacson claims, but a man named T’Sterstevens.
2.There is no record of the older brother of Jacson, “Robert Mornard,” being in the Belgian Consular servite as Jacson claims.
3.When Jacson gave the address of his family residence in Brussels, he named one of the longest and busiest streets in the city, and the number mentioned turned out to be that of a public building.
4.Jacson wrote to Sylvia many times about his father, and the things his father was doing. But he told the Mexican police that his father died years ago.

Jacson was well supplied with money. He claims that during the last days of August, 1939, his “mother” gave him 85,000 in addition to the $200 given him by the alleged member of the Bureau of the Fourth International. In New York City he entrusted $3,000 to Sylvia Ageloff. Later, in October 1939 he established a letter of credit with the American Express agency in New York City for approximately $2,500. On this letter of credit he cashed heavy checks in January of this year, again in May of this year, just before the first assault on Trotsky, and withdrew the balance early in June. When he was taken by the police he had more than $890 in his pockets. In Mexico he bought an automobile for 3,500 pesos. When he traveled, he used airplanes. In Mexico he lived expensively from October, 1939, up until the time of the assassination without holding any job whatsoever.

Although he listed himself on his tourist card as a “mechanical engineer” he declared upon his capture that he had studied journalism and was a journalist by profession. To the household he claimed that he worked for a mysterious individual who at first dealt in oil for the Allies, but who had lately shifted to diamonds. He claimed that he was paid $50 a week by this mysterious boss.

Sylvia Ageloff testified to the police that after she met Jacson in Paris he began working for the “Argus Press Service.” He sold a number of Ageloff’s articles on child psychology to this service, but told Sylvia it was impossible to find out where they were published since she could then deal directly with the magazine, cutting the Argus’ service out of its commission. He himself, he claims, wrote sports articles at a high salary for the Argus Service. Sylvia Ageloff never saw any of her own articles in print. The Argus Service, it is clear, was merely another name for the GPU even though it might have had “Argus” printed on its letterheads and across some office door.

In personal appearance, Jacson before the assault struck one as a nervous individual, prematurely aged, darkened as if some poison were working its way through his skin. His features twitched. He talked rapidly but found words with difficulty, causing him occasionally to stumble in his utterances. While he was not husky, nevertheless he appeared wiry. He wore horn-rimmed glasses, dressed neatly, rarely covered his dark hair with a hat. It was impossible to carry on a sustained political conversation with him; he always wandered into another subject. He claimed to be an ardent sympathizer of the Fourth International, and especially devoted to Trotsky, of whom he said many times in an admiring tone, in the presence of the guards: “He has the greatest intellect in the world.”

Since the assault, Jacson has appeared completely prostrated and near collapse. When he is brought into the judge’s chambers for questioning, he drags his feet as if they were weighted to the floor, hangs his head, requires the support of two men. During the questioning he keeps his eyes on the floor, answers in tones that are scarcely audible, refuses to speak in any language but French, although he is quite familiar with Spanish and English. However, he dropped this mask completely when Albert Goldman pressed him on his story about the alleged member of the Bureau of the Fourth International who had sent him to Trotsky. He appeared suddenly alert, cautious. He sat up in his chair, gesticulated, employed histrionics. At times his eyes would peer balefully from under his bandaged head, like an animal in a trap studying its captor before lunging.

In view of the consummate skill with which he penetrated the household, ingratiated himself, brutally carried out his horrible assignment and stuck to the line prepared for him by the Stalinists, Jacson can be considered one of the most finished products of the GPU terror machine.

Professional GPU Killer

We can now look back upon some of the previous murders of our comrades committed by the GPU and begin to fix the sinister role played by Frank Jacson.

In February 1938 Leon Sedov was stricken with an intestinal ailment. He was taken to a hospital. Somehow his whereabouts leaked out to the Stalinists. Leon Sedov died within a few days under the most mysterious circumstances.

“What is your opinion about the death of Sedov?” Judge Trujillo asked Jacson at the preliminary hearing.

The assassin hesitated, fumbled for words, replied sullenly: “Only what is printed on the case.” “Was it the GPU!” “Yes. The GPU killed Leon Sedov.”

An intensely interesting statement! Was it a single slip of the tongue, an unintentional admission of a truth well known among the agents of the GPU? Was it the very height of deviousness—a conscious attempt to separate himself from the GPU by implying: the GPU did THAT job but NOT THIS one? Or was it the admission of a fact he knew to be true because of his personal involvement in the murder of Sedov and which he admitted as a welcome relief from the strain of constant lying because he did not feel it could be dangerous to him? The last hypothesis seems the most likely. It would explain his hesitation when the question was first asked—should he lie? was it necessary? “only what is printed ...” A cautious reply made to gain time while he decided on the danger involved in answering truthfully: “Yes, The GPU killed Leon Sedov.”

Just before the World Conference of the Fourth International in September, 1935, Rudolf Klement, secretary of the organization, was kidnapped. A letter forged in his handwriting was’mailed to Leon Trotsky from Perpignan, a small town in southern France with which Jacson shows great familiarity. This letter, in terms almost identical to those in Jacson’s letter of “confession,” reports Klement’s “disillusionment” over his supposed discovery that Trotsky was negotiating to make a pact with “Hitler.”

That the “Klement letter” was a GPU job became clear, a few days later, when Klement’s body was found floating in the Seine river at Paris. The head, arms and legs had been amputated by someone with a knowledge of anatomy.

Jacson was proud to show off at a dinner table his general knowledge of anatomy. With a sharp knife, a roast chicken under his hands seemed to fall apart almost by itself.

Why was Klement killed? It was Trotsky’s opinion that Klement stumbled across some information of utmost importance concerning the GPU. The identity of a provocateur—perhaps proof that the GPU murdered Leon Sedov, was preparing the assassination of Trotsky.

Jacson knew David Alfaro Siqueiros, the leader of the May 24 assault. “By accident,” Jacson told Judge Trujillo, he gave to Sylvia Ageloff as his business address in Mexico that of the house named “Ermita” which was frequented by David Alfaro Siqueiros.

It is easy now to reconstruct the night of May 24. Jacson rang the bell during Harte’s shift. Harte answered the door.

“It’s Jacson—I have a message of utmost importance.”

Harte, who knew Jacson, as admitted by the assassin himself, opened the door, holding it by the safety latch. He saw Jacson, whom he recognized as a friend of the house. He saw the GPU agents in disguise as Mexican policemen, took them for genuine and opened the door.

That was why Harte was murdered. He could have identified the GPU agent who tricked him into opening the door. This phase of the May 24 assault, one of the most mysterious, can now be considered solved. Likewise, in all probability Jacson was the mysterious “French-Jew’ who spoke Spanish with a decided French accent, who gave orders to Siqueiros, who drove about in a black Packard with New York license plates, who furnished the money for the May 24 assailants.

We can picture the scene in GPU headquarters in New York when Jacson returned to make his report following the failure of the May 24 assault:

“Go back and finish the job yourself; or—”

The Reaction to Trotsky’s Death

Indignation and sorrow over the murder of Leon Trotsky by Stalin swept through the working class on a world wide scale. Telegrams and letters poured in from all the countries from which the censorship would permit. Working class organizations, one after the other in Mexico, passed re solutions condemning the murder of Trotsky by the GPU.

President Lazaro Cardenas issued a scathing denunciation of the perpetrators of the murder, naming them as “agents of a foreign power” and “traitors” to Mexico.

Only the friends and agents of the CPU were silent or tried to insinuate that Jacson’s “confession” was true. El Popular, Lombardo Toledano’s paper, for instance, published the declaration of Trotsky’s murderer under the front-page headline: “Sensational Confession of the Assassin of Leon Trotsky—Launches Tremendous Accusation Against the Dead Chief of the Fourth International.” This was the biggest play El Popular gave to the whole assassination, which of course is only natural for an organ of the GPU.

In a more cautious form El Popular expresses the same sentiment toward Trotsky as that expressed by David Serrano before Judge Trujillo. Serrano, a member of the Political Bureau of the Mexican Communist Party and believed to be the GPU representative on that body, was arrested in connection with the May 24 assault. It was he who ordered the police uniforms with which the assailants disguised themselves. It was his ex-wife who acted as one of the spies who seduced the police on guard at the Coyoacan house.

“The Third International is opposed to personal terror,” Serrano declared cynically in testifying before Judge Trujillo “but I would not be sorry if anything happened to Trotsky.”

“You understand that a statement like that will go against you in the case?” asked the judge astonished. “I understand; but that’s what I believe.”

This was on August 1, not three weeks before the assassination. It was the order from the GPU representative to finish the job.

Among those working for the GPU in the campaign against Trotsky is Frank Jellinek. This man, long known to be at least a close sympathizer of the Stalinists, came to Mexico in the fall of 1937. He tried to visit Trotsky, was refused admittance. Later he came to the press interview which Trotsky gave following the verdict of the John Dewey Commission that he was innocent of the charges levelled against him in the Moscow Trials. Jellinek came with his friend, Frank Kluckhohn, and had to be called to order by Trotsky because of the disturbance he was creating. Frequently seen with leading Stalinists in Mexico, he wrote reports on the May 24 assault in accordance with the GPU line. What is most interesting about Jellinek, however, is what he did when Trotsky appeared in the Coyoacan court to answer questions by Serrano’s attorney, Pavon Flores. Although Flores is a member of the Political Bureau of the Mexican Communist Party and one who survived the March purge, which prepared for the assault of May 24, he consulted Jellinek in the courtroom so frequently as to give Jellinek the appearance of wielding a great deal of authority. Following the murder of Trotsky, Jellinek wrote a report in PM, which attempted to bolster Jacson’s self-portrait of warring factions in the Fourth International as the matrix out of which came the murder. Jellinek reported “quarreling factions are now competing for Trotsky’s body.” What quarreling factions? Those of James P. Cannon and Albert Goldman! (PM, Aug. 23)

Jellinek’s defense of the GPU is as stupid as Jacson’s “confession.” The hand which becomes warped to the handle of a pickaxe loses its dexterity with a pen.

The Last Days with Trotsky

During the construction work when we were converting the house into a fortress, Trotsky often walked about the patio, suggesting changes, improvements. Nevertheless, he did not feel happy about having to live in such a place. Often he told me: “It reminds me of the first prison I was in, at Khirghizan. The door make the same sound when they shut. It is not a home; it is a medieval prison.”

The place was, indeed, like a prison. Trotsky confined himself to living behind those twenty-foot walls as if he were serving a term in a Czarist jail.

One day he caught me gazing at the new towers. His eyes twinkled in one of those warm, intimate smiles of his, a glance and nod that took one into his confidence.

“Highly advanced civilization—that we must still make such constructions.” he said, his eye brow lifting good humoredly.

“Yes,” I responded—it was not the first time he had made this remark to me—”just such constructions in order to organize the economic system on a rational basis.” “To have to spend a life-time on that!”

The hot Mexican sun high-lighted his eagle features, cut his white bushy hair away from the dark vines behind him. His eyes were no longer on me but speculatively on the towers, and I was suddenly looking at the life’s task of a Bolshevik from a thousand years in the future.

The Old Man taught those about him like that—with half jest converting even his own distastes into something valuable for this new generation surrounding him.

Trotsky enjoyed the Mexican country-side; liked sitting beside a good chauffeur and driving off the paved highway onto some obscure road filled with chuck holes, boulders, mud, bayonet-bladed cactus. Such roads reminded him of the old days and campaigns with the Red Army. But these excursions, which he called “walks,” were dangerous, and for months at a time the Old Man would deny himself the pleasure.

On the last “walk” the Old Man took, he slept much more than usual. As if he were exhausted and this were his first opportunity in a long time to rest. He relaxed in the seat beside me and slept from Cuernavaca almost to Amecameca, when the volcanos, Popocatapetl and Ixtaccihuatl, the sleeping woman, gather great fleecy clouds about their white summits. While one of the other cars re-fueled, we stopped beside an ancient hacienda with towering strongly buttressed walls. The Old Man regarded the walls with interest: “A fine wall, but medieval. Like our own prison.”

As we approached Coyoacan, he slid down low in the seat so that his head would not show—from any of the windows facing the streets near our house might come a burst of machine gun fire.

“After this we must have two of the best drivers in the car,” the Old Man said. He was thinking of the danger connected with these enjoyable “walks”—the chance of the driver being killed. But there was never another “walk” on which to carry out his suggestion.

From the May 24 assault until the week before his death, Trotsky worked on uncovering the GPU—fighting its agents and its friends, such as Lombardo Toledano who carried on a rabid campaign of vilification, slander, foul personal attacks under the monotonously repeated slogan of the GPU: “Expel the Traitor Trotsky from Mexico.”

On the Saturday before the assault Trotsky told me that he had practically finished all his work in relation to exposing the perpetrators of the May 24 assault and that now he expected to return to his “poor, neglected Stalin book.” But before doing so he wanted to know what I thought about his writing something on the question of militarism. We discussed the form and content of such an article, whether it would be an article for Fourth International, something for the Socialist Appeal, or because of world conditions an unsigned article.

The thesis of the project in his own words as I recall them was as follows:

“We must now launch a fight to the finish with all the remnants of pacifism in our ranks. This pacifism is not only a heritage of our entry into the Socialist Party but a heritage of the last imperialist war. Even the Bolsheviks in 1914 did not have the perspective of taking power. Our politics then flowed more or less from a sheer opposition point of view to the official politics of the government. Even Lenin when he was in Switzerland wrote some articles in which he said that the second or third generation may see socialism but we will not. Now the world situation is even more ripe than at that time. Our politics must flow from the perspective of seizing power. There will be revolutionary situations in the coming period, one after the other. It will be a period rich in revolutionary situations. At first there will be defeats. They an inevitable; but we will learn from them. It is also inevitable that we will have victories. One good victory can change the whole world situation. It is not excluded that you will gain power in the United States in the coming period.”

We talked over this thesis several times during the afternoon. I told Trotsky of my experience in writing a war pamphlet in which it was very easy to point out the horrors and causes of war, but not so easy to tell the workers exactly what steps to take next, and that this difficulty came from the fact that we had not yet settled completely on our politics in relation to pacifist sentiment. I also gave him my reaction to the victories of Hitler as indicating not so much the strength of fascism as the rottenness of democratic imperialism, a rottenness which not even we had measured to the full and which clearly showed that we were much nearer to power than we had thought—that it would take but very little from the working class to smash this whole structure. “Of course,” Trotsky said. “Well, I will have plenty of time to think over the problem tomorrow,” referring to his doctor’s order that he stay in bed all day Sunday to rest. But he became so interested in this thesis that he went into his study and began dictating immediately. I heard his strong vibrant voice dictating to his dictaphone with a frequent “totchka!” until 9:30 that evening and again Monday morning. He had gotten an excellent start on the article, he told me just before dinner, utilizing as his point of departure the “miserable article” of Dwight Macdonald in the Partisan Review which I had underlined for him. He also mentioned some of the pacifist tendencies in the minority group who split from the Fourth International which he intended to use along with the “miserable and contemptible” pacifism of Norman Thomas as illustrations in the article.

The first draft was typed and on his desk at the time he was attacked. Knowing Trotsky’s methods of work, I am sure that he had blocked out most of his main ideas; the illustrations and quotations were in the large still missing, possibly he had not yet arrived at a formulation of his key idea. But attack against pacifism as expressed in his conversation with me is certain to permeate the entire Fourth International in the coming period.

The Funeral of Trotsky

On August 22, funeral services were held for Trotsky in accordance with the Mexican custom. A cortege followed the casket slowly through the streets. An enormous crowd followed from the funeral parlors to the Pantheon, some eight miles. At funeral pace, the procession wound through one of the densely populated working class sections of Mexico. The streets were packed on both sides with the most humble people of this city which Trotsky had learned to love during the last years of his life. As the casket approached, covered with a red flag, they took off their hats and stood silently in tribute until it had passed.

At the Pantheon, three of Trotsky’s friends spoke over the bier. Albert Goldman, who had defended Trotsky at the hearings of the John Dewey Commission, assured the people of Mexico, the only country which would grant him asylum, that his remains would finally rest here. He spoke of the irretrievable loss Trotsky’s death meant to the working class of the world.

Garcia Trevino, former leader of the CTM, one of the founders of El Popular and a well-known socialist, condemned Lombardo Toledano and his Stalinist cohorts as those directly responsible for the intellectual preparation of the murder of Trotsky. He called on the Mexican workers to purge their ranks of these perfidious and venal agents and friends of the GPU.

Grandizo Munis, one of the leaders of the Spanish section of the Fourth International, who fought in Spain and had been imprisoned there by the GPU, outlined the major events in Trotsky’s life, particularly his struggle against the degeneration of the Russian Revolution in the person of Stalin. Grandizo ended his speech with the last words of Trotsky, translated into Spanish: “Estoy seguro de la victorio de la Cuarta Internacional. Adelante!”

From August 22 until August 27 Trotsky’s body was kept at the funeral parlors pending an answer from the US government on the request to take his remains to New York City for a funeral service. A guard of honor, composed of Mexican workers and members of Trotsky’s household stood at attention twenty-four hours a day beside the casket. Then was a constant flow of those who wished to pay their last respects to Trotsky. By August 27 an estimated 300,000 people had passed his casket. They were composed almost entirely of the poorest people, burdened with toil, many of them ragged, barefoot. They filed in silently, heads bowed.

From all over the world telegrams and letters expressing the deepest sorrow were sent to Coyoacan. All the sections of the Fourth International, where it was possible, sent messages of solidarity, vowing to carry on the struggle for the ideas of Trotsky.

President Lazaro Cardenas and Mrs. Cardenas visited Natalia and expressed their indignation at the crime and their deepest sympathy with Natalia. They assured her that they “understood very well where letters such as that found in the assassin’s clothing were manufactured”,and that she was “not to worry about it.”

On August 26 the State Department of the United State, government categorically refused to permit Trotsky’s body to be taken to the United States for a funeral service. The decayed capitalist class, entering the final stage of the epoch of wars and revolutions from which socialism will emerge, does well to stand in holy terror of everything associated with Leon Trotsky!

So died our comrade, friend, teacher. He saw the future as if he were already living in it, and like Marx, Engels and Lenin, directed all his titanic energy into arousing the working class towards taking the necessary road to that future society. Trotsky neither feared death nor believed in a god or an after-life. “All that is fit to live is fit to perish.” He wished to be remembered by nothing but his revolutionary deeds and ideas, and these only so that they could be utilized in the liberating struggle of the working class. He was opposed to the mummifying of Lenin’s body, and expressed the desire to Natalia that when he died his remains should be cremated. Let the fire consume everything that decays! On August 27 this wish of his was carried out. Many of his friends on that day no doubt thought of one of Trotsky’s favorite quotations:

“Not to laugh; not to weep;
But to understand.”