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Leon Trotsky 19380812 Answers to the Questions of Lloyd Tupling

Leon Trotsky: Answers to the Questions of Lloyd Tupling

August 12, 1938

[Writings of Leon Trotsky 1937-1938, New York ²1976, p. 414-416]

Question: Since your retirement do you spend your days writing? Or more precisely, what activities do you undertake in an average day?

Answer: My time is devoted almost exclusively to writing. I am working now simultaneously on two books: one on Stalin, the other on Lenin. The first will be published by Harper and Brothers at the beginning of next year, the second a year later.

Q. Do you believe that the cessation of firing between USSR and Japanese troops along the Manchurian border will mean a lasting and definite end to hostilities? What do you believe were the motives of the USSR in opening the battles?

A. I feel no optimism about the truce between the USSR and Japan. It is impossible for Japan to move deeper into China without coming into greater conflict with the USSR in Vladivostok. While Japan would prefer postponing the eventual settlement of accounts with the USSR until her position is more secure in China, the internal events in the USSR tempt Japan to strike now. It is for this reason that Japan has been following a double policy: provocations, violations of the border, raids, and at the same time – negotiations through diplomatic channels in order to keep the road clear for temporary semi-retreats in case the USSR should prove too strong for Japan's liking.

Q. In the last decade we have seen a most rapid change in the political systems governing various peoples. How long do you believe it will be, if ever, until the United States evolves into a society governed by Marxist principles?

A. If the general line of development is clear, the attempts to fix in advance the terms of historic change is futile. One thing, nevertheless, can be affirmed with assurance: the rhythm of development in our time is incomparably more rapid, convulsive, catastrophic than in any previous epoch.

Q. Would you care to give me a definition of a "Trotskyite"?

A. A "Trotskyite" is one who, staying theoretically on Marx's point of view, connects his activity with the fight of the workers for their emancipation; who bases his hopes for a better future exclusively on the consciousness of the toiling masses; who is free from any considerations of careerism or personal interest; who is strong enough to support slanders, persecutions, and frame-ups; who finds his highest satisfaction not in personal advantages but in the general progress of mankind.

Q. In the United States it has long been believed by many that the 1935 change in the Communist Party line which allowed cooperation with bourgeois governments has set back the development of all leftist movements to the position they held a decade ago. Do you believe that the reversal of tactics was a discredit to Marxian aims?

A. The Communist International follows the degeneration of the ruling caste in the USSR. Fifteen years ago it was a revolutionary vanguard of the working class. Now it is a bureaucratic appendage to the Moscow oligarchy. Mr. Browder and his followers have nothing in common with the teachings of Marx and Lenin. They represent now a conservative petty-bourgeois party which misleads a part of the workers.

Q. After the next great war, which seems to be growing closer day by day, under what political principles will people organize? What do you believe the general effects of that war will be?

A. The new world war will inevitably lead to a social revolution. Japan, Germany, and Italy, in view of the terrible internal tensions in these countries, will be the first on the road to catastrophe. But the others will follow them. The ruling classes cannot help but see this perspective and their fear of it is the only "pacifist" factor of our time.

Q. During the Moscow trials of late 1937 and early 1938, why did the GPU connect the political activities of their prisoners with "Trotskyism"?

A. The GPU tries to discredit "Trotskyism" at any price because so-called "Trotskyism" is the tradition of the October Revolution and the hope of the toiling masses for final liberation. The new aristocratic caste fears the masses and hates "Trotskyism."

Q. Concerning this question, I have read many answers, many of which conflict. I am seeking your views because you are the one person in the world who can answer authoritatively. What prevented you from returning to Moscow for the funeral of Lenin? How was your exile plotted?

A. I received the announcement of Lenin's death in a code telegram from Stalin when I was very sick in the Caucasus. I asked by code immediately if I would have time to return to the funeral. Stalin answered me that the funeral would take place Saturday, and that in view of my sickness the Political Bureau considered it not advisable for me to return to Moscow. In reality the funeral took place Sunday. Stalin's communication was consciously false and prevented me from participating in the funeral services. It would be, nevertheless, very naive to overestimate the political importance of this episode. The "plot" against me had a profound social basis. The new aristocracy issued from the revolution and sought to smash every old revolutionary who remained true to the toiling masses.