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Leon Trotsky 19380818 Answers to Gladys Lloyd Robinson

Leon Trotsky: Answers to Gladys Lloyd Robinson

August 18, 1938

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 14, New York 1979, p 779-781]

Question: What do you think of President Roosevelt as a man?

Answer: Even his most bitter opponents do not venture to deny his exceptional personality. Without doubt he possesses more outstanding personal qualities than the modern dictators, Mussolini, Hitler, not to speak of Stalin. I admit it the more readily since an abyss separates my program from the program of Mr. Roosevelt.

Question: What is your opinion of Mr. Roosevelt's measures to alleviate the social and economic ills in the United States? How would you handle the self-same situation?

Answer: These measures have a purely palliative nature. Private property paralyzes further economic development of the United States. Under these conditions social reforms are but the expenditure of accumulations for the amelioration of the most glaring social ills. It is clear that this method does not open up wide perspectives. A program which wishes to maintain the foundations of capitalism untouched cannot offer a way out of the crisis.

You ask me how I should have acted in the place of Mr. Roosevelt. But I could not be in his place—we express opposing historical interests. Mr. Roosevelt desires to ameliorate the situation of the toilers insofar as it is necessary to save the capitalist system. I see the only way out through liquidating it once and for all.

Question: What do you believe will be the final outcome of Mr. Hitler and Mussolini?

Answer: In the next great war the fascist regimes will be the first to collapse. Hypothetically we can lay down the following order in the catastrophes: Japan, Italy, Germany. Fascism is a temporary historic means for suppressing irreconcilable internal contradictions. In wartime they will, however, burst to the surface with such force as perhaps the history of humanity has not yet known. In place of fascism will come the socialist revolution.

Question: What will be England's fate in the next war?

Answer: The economic power of England long ago ceased to correspond to the gigantic magnitude of her empire. The interests of the metropolis and the colonies and the dominions are deeply contradictory in all parts of the world. During the first period of the war the different parts of the Empire might temporarily be brought closer together through the instinct of self-preservation; but at the end of the war Great Britain will inevitably fall apart and this in turn will lead to social convulsions in England.

Question: Will the final result of the present conflict in Spain give us the answer to the immediate political system of Europe?

Answer: The second collapse of Spanish democracy within the last six years shows with unusual force that the framework of democracy is much too narrow for the solution of the social problem. Capitalism in the future can maintain its existence only with the help of open military violence. Since Caballero, Garcia Oliver, Negrin, and Stalin prevented the Spanish proletariat from conquering power for the socialist revolution, the state inevitably fell into the hands of Franco.752 Only political blindness could not foresee this outcome.

Question: Do you believe that democracy has failed in America?

Answer: The blossoming of American democracy was based on the blossoming of American capitalism. Naturally therefore the incurable crisis of capitalism is transformed into a grave crisis of democracy.

Question: Is Mayor Hague a symbol of menace to American democracy—how strong a menace in your opinion?

Answer: Yes, I think that Mayor Hague has very great political significance which far exceeds his own very trivial and limited personality. Through his actions Hague says that the capitalist regime can no longer be upheld by democratic means. It is true that Hague himself denies the fascist characteristics of his policy. But long ago he had a forerunner who spoke in prose without suspecting it. The number of imitators of Hague will inevitably grow. It is impossible to overcome fascism by constitutional means since fascism operates on a different level.

Question: When do you think that the present chaotic condition of the world will reach a crisis?

Answer: I do not undertake predictions as to dates. Nevertheless the present tense situation cannot last years. The denouement must begin in a very short space of time. It can take the form of either war or revolution. At the present moment war seems closer than revolution. But war will undoubtedly carry revolution in its wake.

Question: How do you think the youth of the world will meet these problems?

Answer: The new generation of toilers and intellectuals enters conscious mental life under absolutely exceptional historic conditions—crisis of the world economic system, collapse of democracy, disintegration of the Socialist and Communist Internationals, increasing rottenness of the Soviet bureaucracy, the deepening danger of war. Under these conditions civilization can be saved only by exceptionally daring revolutionary means. In order to find these means it is necessary to review the old heritage critically. That is why I think that the new generation will distinguish itself by great daring of thought and will. It will reject the philosophy of half-measures. It will demand complete answers to the problems of our epoch and it will lend its forces to transform these answers into life. Only under these conditions can humanity move forward.