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Leon Trotsky 19351100 A Venerable Smerdyakov

Leon Trotsky: A Venerable Smerdyakov

November 1935

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 8, 1935-36, New York ²1977, p. 180 f.]

In the anniversary issue of Izvestia, some Smerdyakov or other devotes himself to reminiscences of the October days in Petrograd. It goes without saying that “October was victorious because the line of Lenin-Stalin was victorious.” Nothing else, of course, was to be expected. In the last five-six years, the historical law of “Stalinism” has finally acquired retroactive force and has subjected past history to reworking. But there is one very interesting little concrete touch in the memoirist’s article, at least for those who know where the Smerdyakov’s boot pinches. Here is what we read: “Under the direct leadership of the military center (Stalin, Sverdlov, Dzerzhinsky, Bubnov, Uritsky), the Military Revolutionary Committee energetically prepared the armed uprising.”

This kind of allusion to the “direct leadership of the military center” is occurring for the first time in these reminiscences. The “military center,” as is known, was discovered by chance in old minutes of the Central Committee only in 1923. The trouble, unfortunately, was that none of the organizers of the October Revolution had ever heard of this center. In all the memoirs of the most immediate leaders of the uprising, written in the first years after the revolution until the discovery of the minutes, and in all the documents of the October period, there is no hint of the activity of a special “military center.” In Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution it is proved, using completely irrefutable factual data and eyewitness accounts, coming mainly from the camp of what are now Stalinists — proved once and for all — that the so-called “party military center” never existed.

True, it was at all events elected, toward the end of a night session of the CC, at the very moment when the Military Revolutionary Committee, the real leader of the uprising, was set up in the Smolny. By the very next day, everyone had already forgotten the “military center,” including the members of the Central Committee appointed to it. It produced no decisions, since it never even met once. As was said above, the fact that it had been appointed was discovered only six years later, in an examination of old archives. Incidentally, there were mentioned in them a series of other “centers” which were appointed in passing by the CC in the whirlpool of 1917 and which never existed in fact.

One of the most active participants in the October Revolution, Antonov-Ovseenko, in his numerous and voluminous memoirs, never mentioned a word about the “military center,” far less with the name of Stalin in the first place. In those first years, Antonov-Ovseenko, like Stalin himself, named quite different leaders of the uprising. A striking case of aberration of memory! It took a whole eighteen years for a participant in the October Revolution to bring his memories finally into complete order, i.e., to group them around the personality of Stalin. For — as we have been forgetting to mention — the Smerdyakov we are talking about is none other than the former revolutionary, Antonov-Ovseenko.

These gentlemen may deceive Young Communists and Pioneers. But they will not deceive history; the Stalin apparatus of falsification is insufficient for that. And since that is so, some day, sooner or later, the Young Communists and the Pioneers will also find out the truth. In Europe and in America, the young are already turning toward the truth. A fresh wind is blowing. And no Smerdyakovs will be able to poison it with the gases of their belated memoirs.