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Leon Trotsky 19300516 With Marxist Spectacles

Leon Trotsky: With Marxist Spectacles

May 16, 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 228 f.]

The tardiness of my reply is to be explained not only by my very heavy correspondence and other work but also by the fact that for a certain time I was in doubt whether it would be expedient, after the organizational split, to begin a polemic in private letters. Today in Germany there are two publications in which the polemic can be conducted in such a manner that third persons, who are quite numerous, will learn something from it. However, in order not to miss an opportunity to eliminate misunderstandings (if they are only misunderstandings), I will attempt to answer your letter privately also.

The chief argument of your letter — which is the chief argument of Urbahns as well — consists of the contention that "German matters must not be viewed with Russian spectacles." But this argument is the most important reason for the split, because it is a national or, more correctly expressed, a nationalist argument, which has nothing in common with an internationalist point of view. I have been accustomed to view German as well as Russian affairs with Marxist spectacles and the national chauvinists were never able to dissuade me from this habit when they claimed that we, the intransigent Marxists, viewed Russian affairs with German spectacles (since Marx was German). A revolutionary or, rather, pseudo-revolutionary tendency that is national and not international proves thereby that it is non-Marxist and anti-Marxist. The single fact that the Leninbund has no ideological comrades in the international field today already condemns it inexorably from the Marxist point of view. In France, Urbahns claimed "Contre le Courant." But this group has since disintegrated and disappeared. Urbahns claimed part of the American comrades; they have decisively rejected his advances. This proves that the spectacles of the Leninbund may perhaps be German, but never Marxist.

You maintain, dear comrades, that German conditions cannot be judged from away off in Constantinople. I admit this, too, and I have always expressed myself on internal German questions with the greatest caution. Do you believe, however, that it is much easier to view Russian, French, and Chinese affairs from Berlin or from Wattenscheid? The point of departure in the whole conflict was the question of the class character of the Soviet state Am I to deny Urbahns and yourselves the right to express your opinions on that question because you live in Germany? No, that I will not do! I cannot accept your point of view — not because it is German but because it is wrong. We have in Russia elements who have the same point of view (Myasnikov), and since the Left Opposition cannot conduct any common work with these elements in Russia, how can we alter our principled line for the sake of the Leninbund in Germany? When you look at the matter more closely, you will not demand this of us. The fundamental mistake of Urbahns consists in (a) his theory of the state in general (basically he is with Otto Bauer against Marx, Engels, and Lenin); (b) his evaluation of the Soviet state; (c) the lessons of the Chinese revolution; (d) his relation to the Comintern and the Communist Party of Germany. All these are not internal German affairs, about which it would be difficult to form a concrete judgment from this distance, but on the contrary involve the most principled and fundamental questions of communist theory and international communist policy.