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Leon Trotsky 19300104 Jakob Blumkin Shot by the Stalinists

Leon Trotsky: Jakob Blumkin Shot by the Stalinists1

January 4, 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 22-26, compared to the Russian text]

There is no doubt left even for those who did not want to believe it: Blumkin has been shot on the charge that he visited Trotsky in Constantinople and held a conversation with him about the fortunes of the party and the tasks of the Opposition.

Blumkin has been shot — by decision of the GPU. That could have happened only because the GPU has become Stalin’s personal instrument. During the years of the civil war, the Cheka carried out grim work. But this was done under the control of the party. Hundreds of times from inside the party there came protests, declarations, and demands for explanations about one sentence or another. At the head of the Cheka stood Dzerzhinsky, a man of outstanding moral authority2. He was under orders from the Politburo, whose members were aware of his personal opinions on all matters and supported what he stood for3. This altogether constituted the guarantee that the Cheka was a weapon of the revolutionary dictatorship. Now the party is strangled. With the shooting of Blumkin, thousands and tens of thousands of party members stand in corners, whispering horrible things4. At the head of the GPU is Menzhinsky, not a man but the shadow of one. In the GPU the chief role is played by Yagoda, a despicable careerist who has tied his fortune to Stalin, and who is ready to perform anything he is told to do, without thinking and without questioning. The Politburo does not exist. Bukharin has already stated that Stalin holds the members of the so-called Politburo in his hands, by means of documents collected by the GPU. Under these conditions, the shooting5 of Blumkin was Stalin's personal business.

This unheard-of crime cannot have passed without a trace even in the present conditions of an all-powerful apparatus. Stalin could not have been insensitive to this beforehand; and the fact, with all the precautions he took, that he had made up his mind to kill Blumkin shows how great is that person's fear of the Left Opposition. There can be no doubt about it: Blumkin was victimized to pay for the fact that only a small minority of the Opposition followed Radek and the other capitulators at the very time when the Opposition abroad is gaining serious ideological and organizational successes in a number of countries.

By shooting Blumkin Stalin wishes to warn the International Opposition of Bolshevik-Leninists that inside the country he is holding hundreds and thousands of hostages who would pay with their heads for the successes of authentic Bolshevism on the world arena. In other words, after expulsions from the party, loss of jobs, condemnation of families to hunger, imprisonment, banishment, and exile, Stalin is trying intimidation of the last of the Opposition still in his hands by the method of — shooting.

It can be said with confidence: the results will prove exactly the reverse of those ends Stalin has set himself. The advance of a historically progressive ideological tendency, operating according to the logic of development, will not be bullied or shot down.

★ ★ ★

Very soon after the insurrection of the Left SRs — when, a youth of eighteen, he threw a bomb at Mirbach — Blumkin went over to the Bolsheviks and played a hero's part in the civil war. Shortly after, he worked6 in Trotsky's military secretariat. Thereafter, he worked mainly for the GPU but also for both the military and the party. He carried out very responsible missions. His devotion to the October Revolution and to the party was absolute.

Till his last hours, Blumkin was occupied in responsible Soviet work. How could he stay in it, being an Oppositionist? This is explained by the nature of his work — it had a completely individual character. Blumkin had nothing — or almost nothing — to do with the party cells or participation in discussions on party problems, and so on. But this did not mean that he concealed his views. On the contrary, to both Menzhinsky and Trilisser — former head of the foreign section of the GPU — Blumkin said that his sympathies lay with the Opposition but that it went without saying he was prepared — like any Oppositionist — to carry out his responsible work for the defense7 of the October Revolution. Menzhinsky and Trilisser considered Blumkin irreplaceable, and that was no mistake. They kept him in his work which he carried out to the end.

Blumkin really did seek out Comrade Trotsky in Constantinople As already mentioned above, Blumkin had been closely connected personally with Comrade Trotsky, working in his secretariat. In particular, he prepared one of Comrade Trotsky's military volumes (the preface to that volume speaks about it). Blumkin sought out Comrade Trotsky in Constantinople to find out how he appraised the situation and to verify whether he was acting correctly by remaining in the service of a government that was deporting, exiling, and imprisoning his closest cothinkers. L. D. Trotsky answered him that he was of course acting absolutely correctly in doing his revolutionary duty — not with respect to the Stalinist government, which has usurped the rights of the party, but with respect to the October Revolution.

In one of Yaroslavsky's articles there was a reference to the fact8 that in the summer Comrade Trotsky had had a conversation with a certain visitor and allegedly predicted to him the speedy and inevitable end of the Soviet power. It goes without saying that the contemptible sycophant is lying. But comparing the facts with what has been said, in our opinion the remark refers to Comrade Trotsky's conversation with Blumkin. To his question concerning the connection9 between his work and his adherence to the Opposition, Comrade Trotsky told him among other things that his banishment abroad, like the imprisonment of other comrades, did not alter our fundamental line; that at the moment of danger the Oppositionists would be in the foremost positions, that in the hour of Stalin's difficulty, the latter would call on them as Tseretelli had called on the Bolsheviks for aid against Kornilov. In this connection he said, "If only it is not too late to help." Obviously, after his arrest, Blumkin presented this conversation as proof of the genuineness of the feelings10 and intentions of the Opposition; it mustn't be forgotten, you know, that Comrade Trotsky was exiled on the charge of preparing an armed uprising against the Soviet power. Through Blumkin, a newsletter to cothinkers was transmitted to Moscow wherein they read basically the views expounded in a number of Trotsky's printed articles: Stalinist repression against us still did not mean betrayal of the class nature of the state, but only that it paved die way and facilitated such betrayal; our road, as before, remains the road of reform but not of revolution; irreconcilable struggle for our views must be expected11 for a long time.

Later a report was received that Blumkin had been arrested and that the letter sent through him had come into Stalin's hands.

Blumkin was not shot in 1918 for participating12 in an armed insurrection against the Soviet power, but he was shot in 1929 for selflessly serving the cause of the October Revolution, separating himself, however, on significant questions from the Stalin faction, and for counting it his duty to disseminate the views of the Bolshevik-Leninists (Opposition).

It is fully possible that Stalin will try to use some kind of poisonous variant, in the style associated with the "Wrangel officer" — preparation for an armed uprising or terrorist acts. We must be prepared for this kind of foulness. Such an explanation, however, will scarcely produce serious effects. In general it smells too much of Bonapartist police methods and, in particular, in his struggle with the Opposition Stalin has as a matter of fact already exhausted all his resources. There is no need for a reminder that the principled stand taken by Blumkin on behalf of13 all of us excluded any kind of adventurist methods of struggle on his part.

1In the Russian text: “by Stalin”

2In the Russian text: “strength”

3In the Russian text: “had their own opinions on all questions and were able to stand up for them”

4In the Russian text: “Thousands … on the shooting of Blumkin

5In the Russian text: “bloody reckoning”

6In the Russian text it is added: “quite a long time”

7In the Russian text: “in the service”

8 In the Russian text without: “to the fact”

9In the Russian text: “compatibility”

10 In the Russian text: “genuine feelings”

11In the Russian text: “designed”

12In the Russian text it is added: “in a leading role”

13 In the Russian text instead of “on behalf of”: “together with”