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Leon Trotsky 19300301 Yes or No?

Leon Trotsky: Yes or No?

A First Answer on the Blumkin Murder

March 1, 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 120-122]

The official Communist press, as we assumed, has for several weeks tried to maintain silence on the question of the murder by Stalin of Comrade Blumkin. But this conspiracy of silence has finally been broken, at least at one point. The Vienna Rote Fahne [The Red Flag] has entered into a polemic with the Social Democratic press on the question of Blumkin. It is obvious that the social democracy could not pass over such an exceptional opportunity to touch up its own reputation. The international party of Noske, responsible for the death of Liebknecht, Luxemburg, and thousands of the best worker revolutionaries, would of course have to grasp thirstily at the shooting by the Stalinists of an irreproachable revolutionary. It is not this aspect of the matter that interests us at present

Irrespective of the plots, intrigues, and slanders of the social democracy, each revolutionary worker is faced with the question: Is it true that Stalin shot Comrade Blumkin because he visited Trotsky in Constantinople and tried to pass on letters from him to his cothinkers in Moscow? If it is true, then what are people who by such deeds besmirch the name of communism to be called? Only this question is of importance. For it is clear what a terrible blow such bloody treachery by the official leadership must be to the revolutionary prestige of Soviet power, not in the ranks of the bourgeoisie or the "sympathizing" intellectuals, lawyers, journalists, and writers, who travel magnanimously at Soviet expense to festivals and resorts — but rank-and-file revolutionary workers. That is why the question of Blumkin's fate must be fully resolved.

What in essence does the Vienna Rote Fahne say? It calls the report of Blumkin's shooting "a clumsy lie any ass can see through at first glance." This looks like a very decisive refutation. And we would be fully ready to welcome the firm and categorical tone of Rote Fahne. Actually, the fact in itself is so monstrous that the first and most natural reaction of any revolutionary is not to believe it, to reject and condemn it as slander.

Unfortunately, however, the refutation later becomes considerably less categorical. And not by chance. Rote Fahne piped up only on February 19, i.e., six weeks after the news had not only got into the bourgeois and Social Democratic press, but had even been posed in the form of a direct question in the Communist Oppositional press. In these several weeks Rote Fahne should have been able to get information, could not help getting it. But after such a categorical beginning, Rote Fahne in subsequent lines imperceptibly shifts its denial. The "slander" now is that Blumkin was shot "merely because he was a Trotskyist, that legendary Blumkin." This imperceptible shift * in emphasis is a kind of careful insurance for the paper and at the same time takes the moral weight away from the refutation. The Stalinists' Vienna paper is clearly leaving the door open for two versions: the categorical denial of the fact itself, i.e., of the murder of Blumkin by Stalin, and the admission of the fact, but in a different, as yet unprepared, light."

Why does Rote Fahne call Blumkin "legendary"? What does this rotten hint of mockery mean? Does Rote Fahne doubt the existence of Blumkin (that is, his former existence) altogether? Does Rote Fahne doubt that Blumkin was an irreproachable revolutionary, who had dozens of times proved his exceptional courage and heroic devotion to the proletariat? Does Rote Fahne doubt that Blumkin was shot? Or does the doubt concern only whether he was shot for passing on a letter of Trotsky's? It is unclear from the article; and this lack of clarity is deliberate. Rote Fahne is merely waiting for the version that will finally be selected by Stalin.

The latter is meanwhile preparing his version from a distance. The rumor has been spread through certain Soviet papers that some "Trotskyists" in Siberia sabotaged the railways at the time when troops were being sent against Chiang Kai-shek, by derailing trains, etc. This is now Stalin's third attempt to amalgamate the Opposition with the counterrevolutionaries. The first two collapsed shamefully. The third will certainly do likewise. If Stalin has nevertheless decided to repeat his despicable experiment, that is only because he still needs some kind of version or explanation for the shooting of Comrade Blumkin.

Rote Fahne finishes its article with a panegyric to Stalin as the "beloved disciple of Lenin." We know that such panegyrics are now a necessary condition for retaining the post of editor, secretary, people's commissar, stenographer, or president of the Comintern. But all the same we consider that the editor of Rote Fahne has been all too careless in linking the Blumkin case with Stalin's characteristics and his relations with Lenin.

The fact is that Lenin spoke against Stalin's appointment as general secretary, expressing a fear that "this cook will prepare only spicy dishes." Of course in 1922 Lenin did not yet see dishes quite as spicy as the shooting of Blumkin.

The fact is that in his testament Lenin mentioned Stalin's disloyalty and his inclination to the abuse of power, and for that reason recommended that Stalin be removed from his responsible post.

The fact is that even after the testament, on March 6, 1923, Lenin broke off in writing all personal and comradely relations with Stalin — as a result of his disloyalty and treachery.

This was the state of affairs seven years ago, when the position of general secretary had a strictly subordinate character, and when all power was concentrated in the hands of the Politburo headed by Lenin. Now the position has radically changed. The rule of the apparatus has led to the personal dictatorship of Stalin. The role of party opinion has been reduced hundreds of times. Stalin's disloyalty has proved to be armed by unheard-of means against his own party. The Blumkin case throws light on this new position with terrible force.

Yes, the shooting of Blumkin is being used by our class enemies, and above all by the social democrats. But whose is the responsibility? It belongs to those who have created this horrifying affair, i.e., to the murderers of Blumkin. They surely understood that the Opposition would not be silent For silence would mean unbridling the Stalinist bureaucracy and preparing tens and hundreds of crimes like the Blumkin case.

That is why we declare to all official editors, secretaries, and other functionaries: We shall not let you evade an answer by covering yourself with polemics against bourgeois and social democratic newspapermen. We shall make you give the workers an answer about what has taken place. We shall compel you to answer the question: Do you or do you not take upon yourselves the responsibility for Blumkin's murder? Yes or no?