Saturday, March 08, 2014

From The Marxist Archives -The Revolutionary History Journal-Leon Trotsky on the Second World War

In a funny way this American Left History blog probably never have come into existence if it was not for the Vietnam War, the primary radicalizing agent of my generation, the generation of ’68, and of my personal radicalization by military service during that period. I was, like many working class youth, especially from the urban Irish neighborhoods, drawn to politics as a career, bourgeois politics that is, liberal or not so liberal. Radicalism, or parts of it, was attractive but the “main chance” for political advancement in this country was found elsewhere. I, also like many working class youth then, was drafted into the military, although I, unlike most, balked, and balked hard at such service one I had been inducted. That event is the key experience that has left me still, some forty years later, with an overarching hatred of war, of American imperialist wars in particular, and with an overweening desire to spend my time fighting, fighting to the end against the “monster.”

Needless to say, in the late 1960s, although there was plenty of turmoil over the war on American (and world-wide) campuses and other student-influenced hang-outs and enclaves and that turmoil was starting to be picked among American soldiers, especially drafted soldiers, once they knew the score there was an incredible dearth of information flowing back and forth between those two movements. I, personally, had connections with the civilian ant-war movement, but most anti-war GIs were groping in the dark, groping in the dark on isolated military bases (not accidentally placed in such areas) or worst, in the heat of the battle zone in Vietnam. We could have used a ton more anti-war propaganda geared to our needs, legal, political, and social. That said, after my “retirement” from military service I worked, for a while, with the anti-war GI movement through the coffeehouse network based around various military bases.

During that time (very late 1960s and first few years of the 1970s) we put out, as did other more organized radical and revolutionary organizations, much literature about the war, imperialism, capitalism, etc., some good, some, in retrospect, bad or ill-put for the audience we were trying to target. What we didn’t do, or I didn’t do, either through carelessness or some later vagabond existence forgetfulness was save this material for future reference. Thus, when I happened upon this Riazanov Library material I jumped at the opportunity of posting it. That it happens to be Spartacist League/International Communist League material is not accidental, as I find myself in sympathy with their political positions, especially on war issues, more often than not. I, however, plan to scour the Internet for other material, most notably from the U. S. Socialist Workers Party and Progressive Labor Party, both of whom did some anti-war GI work at that time. There are others, I am sure. If the reader has any such anti-war GI material, from any war, just pass it along.
Markin comment on this issue:

Individual action vs., collective action? Most of the time, while I respect individual heroic efforts (or just great individual achievement), collective action turns the tides of history, and for lots of people not just a few. As far as my own military service time, which included heavy, heavy for the military, anti-war work one of my great regrets is that I did not spend more time arguing against those politicized and radicalized soldiers that I ran into by the handfuls on the issue of staying in and fighting the brass. No re-ups, christ no, but just finishing their tours of duty. More importantly, to stay in and raise anti-war hell (oops!), I mean “serve” in Vietnam if the fates played out that way. A few more radicals over there and who knows what could have been done especially in the very late 1960s and very early 1970s when the American Army even by important elements of its own brass was declared “unreliable.” That “unreliable” mass needed us to help figure things out. And to act on that figuring out.

Alas I was not Bolshevik then, although I was working my way, blindly, fitfully, and haphazardly to that understanding of the struggle. Moreover, I had not access to those who were arguing for a Bolshevik position on anti-war GI work, although I did have a few vicarious links to the U.S. Socialist Workers Party that organization was not strongly committed to keeping anti-war soldiers in to fight the brass but rather was more interested in having such GIs stand at the head of their eternal, infernal, paternal “mass marches.” My thinking, and those around me civilian and military, in any case, was dictated more by the “hell no, we won’t go” strategy of the anti-draft movement extended intact to the military theater than any well thought out notion of “turning the guns the other way.”

Click below to link to the Revolutionary History Journal index.

Peter Paul Markin comment on this series:

This is an excellent documentary source for today’s leftist militants to “discover” the work of our forebears, particularly the bewildering myriad of tendencies which have historically flown under the flag of the great Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky and his Fourth International, whether one agrees with their programs or not. But also other laborite, semi-anarchist, ant-Stalinist and just plain garden-variety old school social democrat groupings and individual pro-socialist proponents.

Some, maybe most of the material presented here, cast as weak-kneed programs for struggle in many cases tend to be anti-Leninist as screened through the Stalinist monstrosities and/or support groups and individuals who have no intention of making a revolution. Or in the case of examining past revolutionary efforts either declare that no revolutionary possibilities existed (most notably Germany in 1923) or alibi, there is no other word for it, those who failed to make a revolution when it was possible.

The Spanish Civil War can serve as something of litmus test for this latter proposition, most infamously around attitudes toward the Party Of Marxist Unification's (POUM) role in not keeping step with revolutionary developments there, especially the Barcelona days in 1937 and by acting as political lawyers for every non-revolutionary impulse of those forebears. While we all honor the memory of the POUM militants, according to even Trotsky the most honest band of militants in Spain then, and decry the murder of their leader, Andreas Nin, by the bloody Stalinists they were rudderless in the storm of revolution. But those present political disagreements do not negate the value of researching the POUM’s (and others) work, work moreover done under the pressure of revolutionary times. Hopefully we will do better when our time comes.

Finally, I place some material in this space which may be of interest to the radical public that I do not necessarily agree with or support. Off hand, as I have mentioned before, I think it would be easier, infinitely easier, to fight for the socialist revolution straight up than some of the “remedies” provided by the commentators in these entries from the Revolutionary History journal in which they have post hoc attempted to rehabilitate some pretty hoary politics and politicians, most notably August Thalheimer and Paul Levy of the early post Liebknecht-Luxemburg German Communist Party. But part of that struggle for the socialist revolution is to sort out the “real” stuff from the fluff as we struggle for that more just world that animates our efforts. So read, learn, and try to figure out the
wheat from the chaff. 


2. Leon Trotsky on the Second World War

From La Gauche (socialiste et révolutionnaire) 28 March 1970
Collected and introduced by Daniel Guérin, this choice of articles by Leon Trotsky illustrates in a masterly way the power of analysis and lucidity of a man who, in spite of the fact that he was practically cut off from the world, observed the frightful reality of where the world was going for three long years. These writings, which run from August 1937 until the assassination of the leader of the Fourth International in August 1940, astonish us, not only because of the depth and clarity of their argument – the perfect mastery of the dialectical method in politics – but above all they astound the reader with the incomparable gift which Trotsky had of ‘predicting’ developments for a number of years, which his contemporaries, starting with the leading politicians, did not in any way suspect.
Recalling briefly the material in these articles, which for a long time were confidential or only read by the censor, Guérin sets out the favourable balance-sheet of the analyses of this man isolated in Mexico:
  • From the time of Munich Trotsky understood that war was inevitable, and in August 1937 he fixed the date in two years’ time;
  • Trotsky, in denouncing the bankruptcy of the Popular Fronts so dear to the Stalinists, had seen very well that while mobilising the masses against Hitler in the name of ‘democracy’, Stalin was carefully arranging a deal with the German dictator ... inasmuch as he feared war as a mortal danger to the Soviet bureaucracy;
  • On 3 August 1939 Stalin’s double game led to the reversal of his foreign policy and gave the green light to the Nazi dictator;
  • The fact that Stalin had decapitated the Soviet army, party and the Bolshevik state apparatus in the purges of 1936-38, for a long time prevented him from facing up to the threat from Hitler, of which Hitler was aware when pushing Stalin into the laughable adventure of the Finnish war, a fiasco which destroyed the prestige of the Red Army ... while conceding compensation to Stalin (such as the partition of Poland and the invasion of the Baltic states);
  • Trotsky foresaw that at first the Germans would gain striking successes in the West (he always pointed out that Britain would maintain its independence) before turning East and attacking the USSR.
  • It was not in order to provoke a world war that Stalin allied himself with Hitler, but because he, being a short-term tactician, thought that he himself could escape war and revolution;
  • In spite of Stalinism Trotsky never doubted that the Socialist system would survive the war. This was the position that Mao Zedong took in the course of his quarrel and clash with the Soviet bureaucracy;
  • Any attack on the USSR would temporarily strengthen the power of the bureaucracy, and Trotsky did not hide this, but thought that this was preferable to a defeat of the USSR, which would wipe out the gains of October;
  • From 11 September 1939 he announced that, in the case of a prolonged war (and that is what would happen if the United States joined the dance) Hitler would march to the abyss with the `infallibility of a sleep-walker; [1]
  • In May 1940 he compared the occupied countries of Europe with powder barrels where revolutionary defeatism would develop. At Teheran and Yalta we know that Stalin focused on the partition of the world, which would demobilise the masses educated in the Western European Resistance;
  • Trotsky never ceased to assert that the real war was between Germany and the USA for a new partition of the world. According to him, the USA could not long remain neutral, because it was a question of their supremacy, and in their intervention he saw an effective way of persuading Stalin to lose his fear of Hitler;
  • On 4 December 1939 Trotsky foresaw that Japan, rather than attack the USSR, would throw itself into the conquest of East Asia and dispute the supremacy of the Pacific with the USA; but he added that, even if Japan succeeded in conquering large territories at the start, it was incapable of supporting a long war;
  • At the end of the Second World War, wrote Trotsky, supremacy would fall to the United States, not without noting that war would hasten movements for national liberation in the colonies of the imperialist European countries;
  • Connecting the facts of a new imperialist explosion with the behaviour of the USA, Trotsky dared to conceive of a Third World War “which this time would pitch entire continents against one another and which would be the tomb of civilisation”;
  • Finally, Trotsky stayed faithful to proletarian internationalism. In Guérin’s words: “He cried out that in aiding the democracies against the Fascists, the workers in the Western countries could only assist and accelerate the victory of Fascism inside their own countries. The war between the two adversaries could bring nothing but oppression and reaction in both camps.”
Such a balance sheet leaves us speechless. In three short years Trotsky, an infallible observer, had foreseen not only the course of the war, but the situation which would result from it, and in which we still live today ... These two points culminated in the Manifesto of May 1940 which Trotsky drafted in his own hand, and which constitutes the cornerstone of the book (pp.187-245). Haunted by the position of Lenin during the First World War, Trotsky reckoned up the situation: “State power and domination of the economy can be torn from the hands of these rapacious imperialist cliques only by the revolutionary working class. That is the meaning of Lenin’s warning that ‘without a series of successful revolutions’ a new imperialist war would inevitable follow.” [2] Simultaneously fighting the innocent choir boys of pacifism, the cynical partisans of isolationism and the masses deceived by the charlatan Stalinists, at that decisive moment Trotsky embodied the unhappy consciousness of the world proletariat. Guérin is mistaken when he states that Trotsky was torn between his old role as a Soviet leader and the fact that he led the Fourth International. When Trotsky writes: “The USSR’s defeat in the world war would signify not merely the overthrow of the totalitarian bureaucracy but the liquidation of the new forms of property, the collapse of the first experiment in planned economy, and the transformation of the entire country into a colony; that is the handing over to imperialism of colossal natural resources which would give it a respite until the Third World War” [3], it is clear that Trotsky is behaving as both the last representative of Bolshevik power and the founder and theoretician of the Fourth International.
These articles frequently emphasise that it must not be left to Hitler to overthrow Stalin: that task must be done by the Soviet workers and peasants. He recalls also that “taken on an historic scale the antagonism between world imperialism and the Soviet Union is infinitely deeper than the antagonisms that set the individual capitalist countries in opposition to one another”. [4] Twelve years before Stalin announced his opposing thesis on inter-capitalist economic rivalry Trotsky had already destroyed it, as he had already deflated the petit-bourgeois windbags for whom support for imperialism against Stalinism would aid the former to defeat the bureaucratic caste: in fact this had and continues to have the opposite effect (in particular when that great friend of Khrushchev’s, Averell Harriman, signed the non-proliferation treaty on nuclear arms). [5] On this matter Trotsky’s strategy not only appreciated the role of the colonial peoples, but emphasised the importance of the Chinese Revolution “on which the proletariat will have to trace a strong line of orientation”. [6] Finally, let us remember this prophesy which takes on its full meaning today: “The trade unions can escape burial beneath the ruins of war only if they take the road of Socialist revolution.” [7] As Trotsky predicted, the disasters of war have integrated the trade unions into capitalism during the greatest expansion of imperialism ever seen.
André Frankin


1. “The fall of Stalin will not, however, save Hitler, who with the infallibility of a sleepwalker is being drawn towards the greatest catastrophe in history.” The Riddle of the USSR, 21 June 1939, in Writings of Leon Trotsky 1938-39, New York 1974, p.360.
2. L. Trotsky, Imperialist War and the World Proletarian Revolution, Manifesto of the Emergency Conference of the Fourth International, May 1940, in Documents of the Fourth International: The Formative Years 1933-40, New York 1973, p.313.
3. Op. cit., pp.325-6.
4. Op. cit., p.327.
5. Presumably these are references to Stalin’s statement of 1 February 1952 (“Consequently, the struggle of the capitalist countries for markets and their desire to crush their competitors proved in practice to be stronger than the contradictions between the capitalist camp and the Socialist camp.” (Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, Works, Volume 16, London 1986, p.331)); and to the later trajectory of Max Shachtman.
6. Nothing exactly parallels this at the position in the text cited. But then we have: “The Chinese people will be able to reach independence only under the leadership of the youthful and self-sacrificing proletariat, in whom the indispensable self-confidence will be rekindled by the rebirth of the world revolution. They will indicate a firm line of march.” Op. cit., pp.331-2. If this is really the original, the French version hardly amounts to a paraphrase.
7. Op. cit., p.342.


3. Revolutionary Policy and Falsification

From Informations Ouvrières, no.485, 29 July-5 August 1970
Without any doubt – and we are not the only ones to stress it – one of the characteristics of the political period in which we have entered is the interest shown in Trotsky’s writings, and everything that concerns him. As a consequence of the search for a revolutionary Socialist programme and of the wish to understand the experience of Bolshevism, which inspires thousands of young people, we have seen many reissued or original works of Trotsky.
But at the same time it is a general phenomenon that introducers are not content to ‘introduce’ and to place such and such a work in the context of the development of the thought and actions of Trotsky, but to inflict a long exposition of their own views on the reader.
The selection of writings on the Second World War, collected and prefaced by Daniel Guérin, does not escape this rule. [1]
And – whatever the reservations which one would have about the way in which certain articles have been mutilated – the texts collected in this volume on the thirtieth anniversary of Trotsky’s assassination are a tribute to the clarity and relentless fight of an activist, and a magisterial example of the theoretical capabilities of a great Marxist.
The texts offered by Guérin extend from an article in August 1937 On the Threshold of a New World War to unfinished note left by Trotsky in his desk after the GPU agent Mercader had smashed his skull.

The Method of D Guérin

Daniel Guérin could only publish a certain number of documents within the limits of this book, and this was a difficult choice. But he is up to a riskier operation: in a number of cases he is happy to give us extracts from a text. Well now, Guérin uses a method which is the opposite of Trotsky’s: he explains in his Preface that he deliberately left out passages which had no connection with the question. But to be precise, for Trotsky the war was not a phenomenon in itself but “the continuation of politics by other means”, and as a result his explanation does not take on its full significance except in the context of elements apparently irrelevant to the “question discussed”. Worse still, certain cuts seem opportunistically to favour Guérin’s theories in his Preface, not an understanding of the thought of Trotsky. We will return to this point.
What Guérin stresses most is the fact that Trotsky’s articles on the war consist of “a series of extraordinary prophecies”, for example the fact that in 1937, before Munich, he had fixed very precisely a delay of two years before the outbreak of war, and had analysed the basic trends in the future conflict from the point of view of international alliances and the general line of military strategy.
Though that is correct, the insistence on presenting Trotsky as an inspired and solitary genius masks the essential point. Indeed, Trotsky did have genius, and he joined to his mastery of Marxism a profound knowledge of international phenomena and the social factors which were to be found behind military or diplomatic combinations. In other words, his astonishing understanding of the dynamics of international developments found its roots, not in his gifts of ‘superlucidity’ but in his unequalled capacity – an expression of his prodigious intellectual gifts indeed – to apply the Marxist method. The forecasts that he fires off start from the decisive facts of the class struggle. In 1937 it was not enough to say that the working class, demoralised by the successive defeats caused by its leaderships, was not capable of stopping the race to war, and with a sure hand to trace on the blackboard the world’s evolution and to calculate in some way the date of the conflict, even if that is the starting point.
In other words, contrary to Guérin’s assertions, it is because Trotsky was not an “attentive and passionate observer” of a “succession of changing scenes” but a revolutionary leader who struggled so that he could attain such precision and rigour in his analyses. Of all the conclusions which Trotsky drew from the inevitability and proximity of the Second World War, the most important is the one that Guérin forgets: the proclamation of the Fourth International, the historic justification for whose foundation is found in the Transitional Programme, which theoretically generalises the experience of class struggle in our epoch in which the concrete conditions of theoretical and political disaster in the working class movement obliged to carry out the essential task of maintaining the organisational cadre and preserving the historical continuation of the movement with a proletarian internationalism that is still alive.
Guérin does not speak about that, but the texts that he himself has chosen justify without contradiction the method which led to the proclamation of the Fourth International in 1938, as they do the role played in the war by that International.
The masterly text – The Manifesto of the Emergency Conference of the Fourth International, dated 26 May 1940 – happily reproduced as a whole, alone would justify every militant worker getting this book without delay. Guérin writes that it “saved the honour of the world working class”. But he does not seem to understand that this document is only conceivable on the basis of the Transitional Programme and that what has given it this meaning is the activity of the sections of the Fourth International saving, not “the honour of the world working class”, but internationalism as a strategy, the struggle for the Socialist revolution, even if these sections which formed the “vanguard of the vanguard”, though not exempt from weakness, yet resisted the ordeal, “these precious cadres”, who as Trotsky had foreseen, “will not be swerved from their road by any wave of chauvinism, nor intimidated by Stalinist Mausers and knives.” [2]

Was Trotsky Divided Against Himself?

But there is something worse. Guérin, not content with omitting what is essential in Trotsky’s activities at the start of the second imperialist conflict, goes on to pure and simple falsifications. Thus we learn that “Trotsky was two men, on the one hand a revolutionary internationalist, the spokesman of the Fourth International, and on the other a leader who was still very much a Soviet militant”.
Divided against himself Trotsky then combines an internationalist Dr Jekyll and a Mr Hyde, who leans towards social patriotism, so that, according to Guérin:
This second Trotsky allows himself to be led into taking up positions that seem to contradict those of the first Trotsky – the internationalist. It is thus that, foreseeing or even calling for the entry of the United States into the war on the side of the Western Allies, Trotsky was led into lambasting the American pacifists, considered as ‘Enemy No.1’ by him, and of encouraging the United States to accelerate its military preparations.”
We know how Trotsky posed the question of the defence of the conquests of October. We can find an example elsewhere on page 120 in the book introduced by Guérin:
To renounce defeatism in relation to that imperialist camp to which the USSR adheres today, or might adhere tomorrow, is to push the workers of the enemy camp to the side of their government: it means to renounce defeatism in general. The renunciation of defeatism under the conditions of imperialist war, which is tantamount to the rejection of the Socialist revolution – rejection of the revolution in the name of the ‘defence of the USSR’ – would sentence the USSR to final decomposition and doom. [3]
Guérin then adds:
Trotsky did not hesitate to proclaim that America must not stay neutral. According to him it was necessary to give Hitler such a decisive blow that Stalin would cease to fear him. And he encouraged the American workers to engage in intense military preparation.
In other words, Trotsky gives a progressive rôle to American imperialism, and invites workers in the United States to put themselves behind it! By assembling extracts of the discussions by Trotsky with the leaders of the SWP (the American section of the Fourth International), Guérin seeks a shadowy existence to his thesis. He alternately denounces petit-bourgeois pacifism with passages of analyses of the world situation (it is inevitable that the United States would enter the war) and extracts the pieces of the discussion which bear on the opportunity of voting for the Stalinist candidate at the election.

Marxism and the War

The falsehood is quite apparent. Taken together the discussions on the international situation have the object of showing that the Stalinists would ‘turn’, that is to say, abandon their conjectural position of defeatism vis-a-vis their own imperialism as a result of the Hitler-Stalin pact. The discussion on the presidential electoral campaign combines two aspects: firstly, the necessity of opposing Roosevelt (whose programme was the preparation of an imperialist war) with a working class candidate; and, secondly, in the absence of a working class candidate from the trade unions or the SWP, Trotsky advised a call to vote for the candidate of the American Communist Party, a worker candidate who opposed (even if from a Stalinist position) the war preparations of its imperialism. The question is not to support the Stalinists because they were less ‘militarist’ than the others, or that they annoyed American imperialism on its road to war, but to use the electoral campaign to fight it, and among its cadre to work to prepare the workers duped by the temporary defeatism of the American CP and to reject its inevitable turn to social-patriotism.
It is indeed correct to say that Trotsky lambasted the pacifists for their sermons, for if they failed to disarm imperialism they did disarm the workers politically. “War is the continuation of politics by other means”, and this formulation also has value for the workers’ movement. The inevitable war will be the terrain on which the independence and the interests of the working class must be defended. Trotsky suggests some transitional demands to develop the proletariat’s struggle against its own imperialism so that it would not be handed over to bourgeois militarists. It was the later development of this policy which the leaders of American Trotskyism carried on from prison.
Whichever way we look at it, Guérin’s method is far from being that of a historian. We often see notices that it is forbidden to throw filth over a wall. Over some works one should not throw certain introductions. But we must not be discouraged. We must carry on. We must read and study the writings on the Second World War, for they constitute an indispensable weapon to maintain their line in the continuing struggle about which Trotsky in the Manifesto of the Emergency Conference went on:
The capitalist world has no way out, unless a prolonged death agony is so considered. It is necessary to prepare for long years, if not decades, of war, uprisings, brief interludes of truce, new wars and new uprisings. A young revolutionary party must base itself on this perspective. History will provide it with enough opportunities and possibilities to test itself, to accumulate experience, and to mature. The swifter the ranks of the vanguard are fused, the more the epoch of bloody convulsions will be cut short and the less destruction will our planet suffer. But the great historical problem will not be solved in any case until a revolutionary party stands at the head of the proletariat. The question of tempos and time intervals is of enormous importance; but it alters neither the general historical perspective nor the direction of our policy. The conclusion is a simple one: it is necessary to carry out the work of educating and organising the proletarian vanguard with tenfold energy. Precisely in this lies the task of the Fourth International. [4]


1. Leon Trotsky, Sur la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale, Textes rassemblés et prefacés par Daniel Guérin, Editions La Taupe.
2. L.D. Trotsky, A Fresh Lesson: After the Imperialist Peace at Munich, 10 October 1938, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1938-39, New York 1974, p.78.
3. L.D. Trotsky, The USSR in War, 25 September 1939, In Defence of Marxism, New Park, London 1966, p.20.
4. L.D. Trotsky, Imperialist War and the World Proletarian Revolution, Manifesto of the Emergency Conference of the Fourth International, May 1940, Documents of the Fourth International: The Formative Years 1933-40, New York 1973, p.346.


4. Daniel Guerin’s Postscript

Comrades from several Trotskyist tendencies, Lutte Ouvrière, Informations Ouvrières, and, to a lesser extent, La Gauche (Belgian) have vehemently criticised certain passages in the Preface to this book, the first edition of which appeared in Belgium. One of them has even written that I have covered Trotsky’s writings with filth.
All of them accuse me of having cut the texts that I have collected. In the Preface I took care to say that I had “deliberately left out passages of certain texts that have no connection with the question”. That question was, of course, the Second World War.
Furthermore, they maintain, war is not a phenomenon in itself but, following the formulation of Clausewitz, the continuation of politics by other means, and thus Trotsky’s arguments only take on their full meaning in the context of events with which I did not deal. Even worse, my cuts in the text were intended opportunistically to favour the hypotheses that I maintained in my Preface.


I do not believe that these criticisms are deserved. If I made cuts in the writings that I chose, it is because Trotsky treated of so many and so different questions that it would be necessary to select not merely articles on the Second World War, but to publish the whole body of his complete works.
I did not like mutilating the record of the discussion between Trotsky and the American Trotskyists who visited him on 12 to 25 July 1940, particularly as, until now, none of this was available in French. But it is a question of an extremely long document, the result of an often violent discussion where the most varied subjects were thrown into the debate, and where the contributions of many of the participants were as long as Trotsky’s replies. This is so particularly with the cuts that I had to make on one page. (See p.196 of the present edition.) But it really is not my fault. I maintain that these cut passages dealt with very different questions, generally of internal American politics, without any connection with the theme of this collection, and that in no way do the texts collected here lose their “full significance” and that their suppression does not in any way “favour” the statements made in the Preface.
The severity of these criticisms depends on a passage on pp.15-16 of the Preface where I write, “It is thus that, presenting or even calling for the entry of the United States into the war on the side of the Western Allies, Trotsky was led into lambasting the American pacifists, considered as ‘Enemy No.1’ by him, and to encouraging the United States to accelerate their military preparations. On several occasions, as has been seen, in the same way he insisted on the fact (which to him seems to provide extenuating circumstances) that Stalin had cooperated with Hitler out of fear of him, and that the only way to help him out of the clutches of the Nazi dictator was for the Allies to show themselves strong.”
Here I can only be referring to an article published in the New York Times on 4 October 1939 under the title The United States Will Participate in the War. Trotsky here says expressly that “the intervention of the United States ... would be capable of changing the orientation not only of Moscow but also of Rome”, and, further on, “to make the Kremlin change its policy there remains only one way, but a sure one. It is necessary to give Hitler such a decisive blow that Stalin will cease to fear him. In this sense it is possible to say that the most important key to the Kremlin’s policy is now in Washington.” [1] Since Trotsky published it in the most important American bourgeois paper the view expressed here that it could even be taken as advice seems to me to have the more weight.
The curious thing is that the citation which precedes this quotation is not reproduced as a whole by my critics; and the brief fragment that they do quote, they attribute to me, whom they accuse of ‘falsification’, and not to their author: Leon Trotsky.
I must here recall that the passage in question has already been recalled and examined by Isaac Deutscher. His biography of Trotsky made the following comment: “He repeated the same thought during the ‘Phoney War’ in the winter of 1939-40, saying that France and Britain, in avoiding a real military collision with Germany, were conducting a sort of ‘military strike’ against the United States.” [2] Deutscher left out the inverted commas around the last four words. In fact Trotsky had only reported, without contradiction, the opinion of the Kremlin that the passivity of the European Allies towards Hitler annoyed the United States – though still then ‘neutral’. The Kremlin, like Trotsky, had sensed that the United States, under the cover of ‘neutrality’ had both raised a hue and cry over secret contacts with Berlin, and pushed Britain and. France to be less passive and cowardly, and to unsheath their sword.
Here I must deal with the third accusation that is levelled at me, that I was wrong to suppose that besides the international revolutionary Trotsky there was a Trotsky “who was very much a Soviet militant still, staying faithful to the revolution he had himself led and the military power that he had created”, a Trotsky “concerned above all, we must repeat, with the unconditional defence of the USSR”. However, Trotsky left no-one in any doubt that this was his position. Already in his thesis of May 1934, War and the Fourth International, he affirmed that “the defence of the Soviet Union from the blows of the capitalist enemies, irrespective of the circumstances and immediate causes of the conflict, is the elementary and imperative duty of every honest labour organisation”. [3] He repeated this, as we have seen, in the Manifesto of the Fourth International in 1940, where he called for “the defence of so colossal a conquest as planned economy against the restoration of capitalist relations”. [4] It is precisely on this point that he denounced so sharply the splitters from the American Trotskyist party, the disciples of Max Shachtman, the Workers Party, whose journal was Labor Action. It is not the result of chance then, if as we have seen, Labor Action, distinct from Trotsky, took a position against both conscription (compulsory military service), and of American entry into the war by the side of John Lewis, the great trade union leader and the bitter adversary of President Roosevelt.
Doubtless Trotsky would have resolved the contradiction between his defencist attitude and his revolutionary internationalist position in upholding that, as André Frankin has written in La Gauche “the defence of the USSR coincides in principle with the preparation of the revolution of the world working class”, and that I was mistaken when I stated – in the Preface – that Trotsky was torn between these two positions. But, as will be seen, he compromised a little when he came to take up positions in the real world.


If Trotsky was still as defencist in August 1940 as before it was because he foresaw how much the USSR was threatened in the immediate future. The greatest part of the Manifesto of the Fourth International, which I have published uncut, was produced before the complete defeat of France by Hitler’s formidable military machine (there is only an allusion of a few phrases, added at the last moment, at the end of the Manifesto to “the German armies [which] are rolling like a fiery tide of fire towards Paris and the Channel)” [5] and, in any case, he had written it before the direct threat to Britain of all-out air attack, the famous Blitz which started on 8 August 1940. As regards the threat to Great Britain, Trotsky had already, in an article of 4 October 1939, given the opinion that “Hitler wants to split the British Empire wide open and prepare a base for war with the United States”. [6]
This brutal expansion of Hitler’s imperialism in the direction of the British Isles had, by mid-August 1940, reinforced Trotsky in his conviction that one day or another the USSR, despite the German-Soviet pact, would be attacked in its turn, and that it would have a great need of military aid from the USA. And as he was anxious to see Stalin cease to be the more or less blind satellite of Hitler, he showed his impatience – even more impatient than on 4 October of the previous year – that a decisive blow be struck against the Führer by his imperialist adversaries.
In support of this interpretation I will refer to several texts that I have not published. First of all is the thesis which I have already cited: War and the Fourth International. Trotsky here stated that “the proletariat of a capitalist country that finds itself in an alliance with the USSR must retain fully and completely its irreconcilable hostility to the imperialist government of its own country”. However, he drew a “difference” between the practical attitude adopted by the working class in a country at war with the USSR in comparison with the working class in a country allied to the USSR, such as for example the American proletariat: in this last case he declared that it “would be absurd and criminal ... for the American proletariat to sabotage the sending of American munitions to the USSR”, and that by contrast “the proletariat of a country fighting against the USSR would be absolutely obliged to resort to actions of this sort”. [7]
The same recommendations will be found in the response made by Trotsky in Mexico in 1937 to a question put to him by the Dewey Commission in its report on the Moscow Trials. [8] Trotsky here defined the attitude that he would adopt towards a France allied to the USSR against Hitler’s Germany: this attitude according to him would be different on the other side of the Rhine. In a Germany at war with the USSR he would sabotage all the military means of carrying on the war, while in France he would oppose the bourgeoisie politically, with a view to the coming proletarian revolution. When Trotsky in August 1940 suggested the position to take as regards the United States, he well understood the temporary character of the Hitler-Stalin pact in the perspective of an alliance between the USA and the USSR against Hitler, where his attitude followed from that which he had taken in 1934 and 1937.
Elsewhere I have included in the present edition two new texts of Trotsky’s. I was not able to put them in the Belgian edition because it was already being printed when I received them from New York. [9] It is important to note that these last two letters of Trotsky were written in the last days of his life, The author this time dots the ‘i’s and crosses the ‘t’s, and does not hesitate to write:
If democracy is to be defended we should defend it also on European soil: the more so as this is the best way to defend democracy in America. To help England ’ to crush Hitler ’ by all means, including military intervention, would signify the best way to defend ‘American democracy’. [9]
Certainly Trotsky did not hide the fact that in his eyes this was a ‘transitional’ programme. The real aim of the Fourth International and the final aim of the struggle remained the Socialist revolution. When he spoke in his first letter of the Fatherland (with a capital letter), he took care to clarify in the second, when he had to, that he had meant the Capitalist Fatherland (with two capital letters).
But he believed at the same time, and he said it clearly, that one must not make an abstract affirmation of doctrinal purity, which was in his eyes sterile. He thought it necessary to be realistic, and to align oneself with the patriotic feeling which then prevailed among the American working masses, and that is why he demanded the democratisation of the army, “compulsory military service of workers under the control of workers” (reminiscent of the Armée Nouvelle of Jaurès), the first step, according to him, “towards workers’ militias”.
This led, in the debate of 12-15 June 1940, to the leader of the American Trotskyist party James P. Cannon anxiously asking him the question: “What about the possibility of confusing us with the patriots?” [10]
Before ending I wish to reply to the last criticism: that I was wrong to present Trotsky as a “super-lucid” forecaster of events. For this great revolutionary was simply applying the Marxist method, and the proclamation of the Fourth International did the rest. I would have to say that this was a fantasy, since the Fourth International was, for the most part, just Leon Trotsky, Trotsky the unique author of the powerful manifesto reproduced in extenso in this book and written in his own hand. Whatever the manner of “applying the Marxist method”, a long historical experience has, alas, taught us that it is often done differently and, in the way it is often done, it is not necessarily infallible – even when it is applied by Trotsky, who, as I show in my Preface, also makes mistakes. I would firmly maintain that it is his personal genius which seems to me to have contributed for the most part to the formulation of his prophecies, which, all the same, contain many inevitable errors of prediction.


1. L.D. Trotsky, The US Will Participate in the War, 1 October 1939, in Writings of Leon Trotsky 1939-40, New York 1973, pp.95-97. Cf. also the discussion in n93, pp.431-2. [Editor’s note] The reader will note the contradiction between this passage and that in another article of Trotsky’s on 30 June 1940 where he accuses “the social-patriotic sophists” of saying that “it is necessary to strike a blow against Hitler”. [Guérin’s note] (Cf. L.D. Trotsky, We Do Not Change Our Course, 30 June 1940 in Writings of Leon Trotsky 1939-40, p.297.)
2. Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast, Oxford 1970, p.458. Let us remember that in the article already cited of 4 October 1939 Trotsky wrote: “The ‘operations’ on the Western Front during the first month of the war only strengthened Moscow in its estimation ... Moscow thinks, consequently, that the present confused and indecisive conduct of operations by France and Great Britain is a kind of military sitdown strike against the United States, but not a war against Germany.” (L.D. Trotsky, The US Will Participate in the War, 1 October 1939 in Writings of Leon Trotsky 1939-40, p.94.) [Deutscher also omitted the word “sitdown”. – Editor’s note]
3. L.D. Trotsky, War and the Fourth International, 10 June 1934, in Writings of Leon Trotsky 1933-34, New York 1975, p.304.
4. L.D. Trotsky, Manifesto of the Fourth International on the Imperialist War and the Proletarian World Revolution, May 1940, in Writings of Leon Trotsky 1939-40, New York 1973, p.199.
5. Ibid., p.220.
6. L.D. Trotsky, The US Will Participate in the War, 1 October 1939, op. cit., p.96.
7. L.D. Trotsky, War and the Fourth International, op. cit., p.315.
8. The Case of Leon Trotsky, New York 1969, p.290. Trotsky here refers in his reply to the passage cited before in the Theses of 1934 [Guérin’s note].
9. L.D. Trotsky, How to Really Defend Democracy, 13 August 1940, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1939-40, New York 1973, p.344.
10. Writings of Leon Trotsky 1939-40, New York 1973, p.254.
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“Let them know that reconciliation is possible!”…
Awash in the light of the new day in Immokalee this morning, Wilson Perez (right) and his wife and 9-month-old baby boy listen to Pastor Miguel Estrada as he bestows an Ash Wednesday blessing (below) on dozens of farmworkers and their allies before they embark on the first leg of the
Now Is the Time Tour.
Over 60 farmworkers and their allies head out from Immokalee at dawn, launching their 10-day, 10-city journey as ”Now is the Time” Tour hits the road!…
In the cool, early hours of a beautiful March morning in Immokalee, farmworkers gathered at the CIW community center ahead of the launch of the Now Is the Time Tour with a To-Do list almost as long as the 2,800-mile tour itself.
After many weeks of preparation, a veritable mountain of signs and banners for the protests, hand-painted props for the tour theater piece to be performed at community meetings along the way, and food, drink, and medical supplies for the long days on the road had accumulated at the CIW office.  Before the tour crew could head north, all those materials had to make their way onto the bus and into the many vehicles of the trailing caravan, and the front door of the CIW headquarters was swinging throughout the morning as members carried box after box…
to the tour vehicles parked outside:
Amidst the buzz of packing and last-minute preparations, men, women, and children poured into the office, ready for the 10-day trek.  Spirits soared among the group as the day broke…
Don't miss the rest of today's photos -- and moving words from Pastor Miguel's Ash Wednesday blessing for workers as they embarked on the Tour -- at the CIW website!
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Coalition of Immokalee Workers • PO Box 603, Immokalee, FL 34143 • (239) 657-8311 •
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Climate Justice Teach-In: Race, Class, and the Anti-Ecological Logic of Capitalism
April 5, 2014
Northeastern University, Boston , MA

This one day conference will explore the intersection of climate change and social justice. 

We've known about the dangers of climate change for more than two decades and awareness continues to increase. We are already beginning to see the consequences--frigid temperatures thanks to shifting polar vortex, hurricanes, typhoons, flooding--and there is widespread support for policies to mitigate climate change. 

Yet, we haven't seen the wide scale changes in society we need and they don't seem on the horizon. Why? What kind of movement (and, ultimately, society) is required to respond seriously to climate change?

Speakers will address: What is the role of the capitalist political and economic system in the climate crisis? How do racism, socioeconomic inequality, and other longstanding forms of oppression facilitate ecological destruction? Why should climate activists be concerned with a broad-based view of social justice and why should social justice activists be concerned with climate change? 

A central goal of the conference is to promote climate justice perspectives and analyses in the Boston area. How can we promote collaboration between climate activists and social justice activists and build a strong climate justice movement? Join us for discussion of these important questions!

Confirmed speakers:

Fred Magdoff, Professor Emeritus of Soil Science, University of Vermont and co-author with John Bellamy Foster of "What Every Environmentalist needs to know about Capitalism"

Jill Stein, Green Party and environmental activist

Daniel Faber, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Northeastern Environmental Justice Research Collaborative, Northeastern University

Sherri Mitchell, Indigenous Rights Attorney and Activist and Executive Director of the Land Peace Foundation

Sara Mersha, Director of Grantmaking and Advocacy, Grassroots International

More speakers and details to be announced.

Please forward to anyone you think may be interested!

Artist Deb Van Poolen Shares Her Motivations to Work as an ActivistActivist/artist Deb Van Poolen describes why she devotes her time and creativity to opposing US policies of illegal war, indefinite detention and torture.

Making Art About Life Under Occupation in Palestine
Activist/Artist Deb Van Poolen received grant money in the Spring of 2013 to travel to Palestine to make art about Palestinians' regular experiences of militarized occupation by  the state of Israel.

Also, I am looking for a graphic artist/s who will help me create a fine art calendar about Palestine using my paintings and drawings, some of which are seen in the video.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions! 


Deb Van Poolen

ps. The sections of the presentation about Pvt. Manning and Petraeus are in the works! I sent out the section on permaculture last week along with some commentary on capitalism.

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Pat Scanlon, Coordinator of Veterans for Peace and the Smedley Butler Brigade, talks about plans for the alternative "St. Patrick's Peace Parade," which follows the main St. Patrick's Day/ Evacuation Day Parade in South Boston on March 16. Interview for BNN News. Aired March 5, 2014.
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“You are the light that is bringing the message of God, the message of reconciliation and liberation…”
“That is why you are on this tour — to transform the hearts of people around the country…”
Candlelight vigil inside Duke’s historic University Chapel highlights tour’s trek through the Tarheel State…
Following yesterday morning’s protest at a Charlotte Publix and lunch with Fair Food Program partner Compass Group, the tour crew continued making its way through its Day Two itinerary, arriving in the late afternoon to Durham, the heart of the state’s famed Triangle Area.
Our evening started off with a presentation by CIW members on the Fair Food Program hosted by Duke University’s Divinity School and attended by Fair Food allies from Student Action with Farmworkers and Durham Congregations in Action…
… the highlight of which, without a doubt, was the world premier of the CIW’s newest theater production, a piece prepared specially for the Now Is the Time Tour.  The piece compares the working conditions on farms that are participating in the Fair Food Program and complying with the Program’s Code of Conduct to those found on farms that still operate outside of the Program’s protections.  It also takes a critical look at the role that buyers who refuse to support the Fair Food Program, companies like Wendy’s and Publix, play in perpetuating farmworker poverty and providing a potential market for tomatoes picked in harsh, dangerous conditions...

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‘Wounds of Waziristan’: The Story of Drones As Told By the People Who Live Under Them

When: Saturday, March 8, 2014, 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Where: MIT • 77 Mass. Ave. • Room 4-231 • Cambridge

Hear from the Director: Madiha Tahir, a Pakistani-American journalist who filmed interviews with the people who live in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan under the constant presence of the U.S.-launched drones, and in the wake of their destruction.
Sponsored by MIT Western Hemisphere Project; Eastern Mass. Anti-Drone Network Task Force of United for Justice with Peace; Boston United National Antiwar Coalition; Alliance for a Secular & Democratic South Asia; and Mass. Global Action 
VFP friends -- please have the peace and peace-loving people and organizations you know sign on to this letter, below... sign-on responses go to
A time-sensitive message from the Agape Community:
Would you like to join the growing list of signees in support of Veterans For Peace still disallowed from marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Here is the final statement (BELOW).
Can you send your names to Suzanne Shanley by tomorrow (Sunday, March 9) so that we can send to media outlets as we attempt to express our concerns as peacemakers in MA and beyond.
Many thanks.  Please also support Veterans for Peace by attending the alternative Peace Parade, described in the flier and statement below.  Please forward to peacemakers you know and ask them to contact media to express their alarm and this ongoing treatment of veterans as well as to mention this document.  People may simply send their names and how they want to be listed to
Peace and gratitude.
Suzanne Belote Shanley for Agape

Massachusetts Peace Communities Statement of Support
for Veterans for Peace inclusion in St. Patrick’s Day Parade
We the undersigned represent a number of peace organizations across the religious spectrum, interfaith and ecumenical, who wish to express our deep concern about the grave injustice, disrespect and clear discrimination against veterans who are voices of peace, through their exclusion from Veterans for Peace from Boston’s Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  
It is our conviction that the history of such exclusion in Boston is based on secular and political maneuvering.  Such posturing prevents our veterans from expressing the ravages and trauma of war and their collective statement about their experiences and wounds, both physical and mental, in a public forum such as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, meant, ironically, to honor veteransVisible reminders of the scourge of war such as members of Veterans for Peace bring to the public forum are consistent with our work as peacemakers in our war-addicted society.
We are aware that The Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade is currently mired in a debate about the exclusion of LGBT sisters and brothers from the main St. Patrick’s Day Parade. 
As communities of peace, we wish to make a clear and consistent statement of support of our veterans, across the gender spectrum, as peacemakers whose civil rights are violated, and who by turning from war, characterize a conversion from killing, to peacemaking, honored by all faith traditions. 
We note that St. Patrick, the Irish Catholic saint, after whom this parade is named, renounced war emphatically when he said in his writings:  “Killing Cannot Be of Christ.”
The Boston Chapter of Veterans for Peace, known as the Smedley D. Butler Brigade, is part of a national veterans’ organization of the same name with 140 chapters around the country, members from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.
For the past ten years, members of Veterans for Peace have attempted to walk in the St. Partrick’s Day Parade, and in 2011, they were denied participation by the parade organizers, one of whom stated:  “We do not want to have the word peace associated with the word veteran.”
We echo and support the words of Veteran for Peace, Tony Flaherty, LT, USN, Ret. of WWII, a member of the Boston Chapter, and one of its most eloquent spokespersons as an Irish Catholic who has renounced war, spent his entire life in South Boston, and who recently penned the following words to Mayor Walsh of Boston:
“Vets for Peace has been banned, simply for advocating peace and a dedication to offering our children a message that war is not the answer at spectacles glorifying militarism since 2003 (invasion of Iraq) and since initiating the Peace Parade in 2011, have been subjected to insult and calculated obstruction in which City Hall has been complicit. …”
Peace Parade key organizer, Pat Scanlon, a decorated Vietnam Veteran, comments that veterans experience this obstruction as an insult, especially, “to those of us who have experienced the horrors of war and know the real cost of war.” 
Veterans, some in their eighties, have waited for hours in the blazing sun, to march after street cleaners and other public employees finish their post-parade obfuscating and deliberate degradation of impact—under the guise of cleanup.  They are greeted, sometimes with applause, often with jeers and sullen stares, by the handful of dwindling numbers of parade participants.   A court order has altered these delay tactics, but the exclusion remains.
Veterans for Peace have clearly stated their desire: “One parade, welcoming and inclusive of any group.”
We representatives of Peacemaking Communities in Massachusetts want to make clear our support of the Veterans for Peace and our desire:
The make visible the flags for peace carried by VFP, the nobility of the tradition of rejection of war by warriors through the centuries, and the consistent message that we have learned as a nation from our great peacemakers, Lucretia Mott, George Fox, John Woolman, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, Daniel and Philip Berrigan, Sr. Megan Rice, Howard Zinn and the countless numbers of the great cloud of witnesses who live on nationally and internationally and across the faith spectrum.
We the undersigned peace communities carry with us the voices of hundreds, if not thousands of our peacemaking constituents who are appalled at the blatant disregard for the movement of conscience, courage and nonviolence embodied in the lives of our brothers and sisters, Veterans for Peace in Massachusetts.