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Leon Trotsky 19351228 The Lenin-Trotsky Papers

Leon Trotsky: The Lenin-Trotsky Papers

December 28, 1935

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 14, New York 1979, p. 635-637]

The correspondence from the time of the civil war and the following years up until 1923 is arranged in such a way that commentary is almost superfluous. As long as no complete and objective history of the civil war has been written, it will, in any case, be necessary to consult Trotsky’s collection Kak Vooruzhalas Revolutsiya (How the Revolution Armed Itself), 5 vols., (Vishy Voyenni Redaktsionni Sovet: 1923-25) to find the necessary documentation for the various military episodes.

The correspondence begins with Trotsky’s departure for Brest-Litovsk in January 1918.

The correspondence, almost in its entirety, has a “telegraphic” character; even the letters were in the majority of cases transmitted by wire.

The direct correspondence between Lenin and Trotsky makes up only a fraction of the collection. For what happened in most cases was that when Lenin issued an order or a recommendation to a military or party body while Trotsky was absent from Moscow (which was the rule) he always had a copy sent to Trotsky in order not to upset coordination of the work. Trotsky did the same thing insofar as central bodies and Moscow authorities in general were concerned.

The large number of purely military orders signed with Lenin’s name can create the impression (and this is now also the interpretation of the official historiography) that Lenin personally intervened in the leadership of military operations over the heads of the military authorities. This interpretation is completely false. Lenin had a high regard for system and order. His signature under many purely military orders is explained by the fact that in Trotsky’s absence from Moscow, his deputy Sklyansky called upon Lenin to strengthen the decisions of the Moscow-based headquarters with the authority of his signature in all important questions.

The collection in no way covers the collaboration between Lenin and Trotsky in its entirety. It only partially reflects the workings of the leadership in the civil war. The most important questions were usually handled in Moscow after Trotsky’s return to the capital, in meetings of the Politburo, or often in personal or telephone conversations. Many details about this can be found in Trotsky’s autobiography My Life.

The photocopies which are included also cover only part of the correspondence. Their origin is as follows: In the year 1924, at the time when the great falsification of party and revolutionary history was systematically introduced, the Politburo (Stalin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev were allied then) passed a resolution obliging every party member, every state official, every citizen in general to turn over every letter, telegram, etc., from Lenin in his possession to the Lenin Institute. In return he would receive a photocopy of the document in question. This last obligation was, however, only partially fulfilled and in a tendentious fashion.

In any case, the machine copies were very carefully made.

On many documents there will be found notations and markings in red or blue pencil. These have nothing to do with the collection. They indicate excerpts, etc., that Trotsky used in composing his autobiography and other writings during his residence abroad.