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Leon Trotsky 19381111 Can the Daily News be Sued?

Leon Trotsky: Can the Daily News be Sued?

November 11, 1938

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 14, New York 1979, p 796-798]

Dear Friend:

I am writing you to ask for your help in the complicated intrigue which the Stalinist agency is now creating around me. You know that the New York paper the Daily News has published editorials—for the third time, I think—saying that the expropriation policy of General Cardenas's government is . . . the result of my advice. There is no need to say how absurd such an assertion is. But in case this assertion might be brought into court, I am communicating the following to you: I have had no interviews with General Cardenas, I have not had any conversations with either him or the members of his government, either directly or by intermediaries, and my correspondence with the authorities has been limited to formal questions related to my residence in Mexico. The instigators of the insinuations printed in the Daily News and other publications know perfectly well the resolute and independent character of General Cardenas, who has no need of my "advice" to conduct his own policy. Furthermore, there is no need to say that the program I advocate is far from the program of the Mexican government. Anyone who is not illiterate knows this. No honest person would dare to question it. But we are in the presence of people who, while they are not illiterate, are manifestly without honor.

My first idea was that this intrigue was started by property-owners whose interests were harmed [by the recent nationalizations], who were using this means to try to somehow compromise the Mexican government. I still think today that this thread is definitely part of the intrigue. But there is another thread, the main one, which leads to the Stalinists. These gentlemen simultaneously work their game in two directions. The local agents of the GPU started by accusing me, in public speeches and articles (by Toledano and Laborde), of preparing an uprising against General Cardenas in alliance with fascist generals, etc. Such inventions were too obviously absurd to everyone, and the intrigue that had been launched in this direction quickly proved its sterility. (In a moment of lucidity or imprudence, Toledano himself acknowledged that such accusations could be launched only for . . . insane people.) Of course, people who have nothing much to lose have continued to repeat this insanity. But the main attention of the GPU has turned in another direction. It seems today, if we are to believe Toledano, that I myself am trying to give the impression that I am the . . . intimate adviser of the government of General Cardenas. Baseness and stupidity, as you can see, know no limits. There is no need to explain how much I appreciate the refuge the Mexican government has offered me and the degree of my concern that the government should not for a minute doubt my total loyalty. For what reason would I begin to claim to be what I am not and what I have no wish to become? Obviously for reasons ... of pride. Here the slanderers reveal their full intellectual and moral stature.

I have received from a well-informed source the information that the inspirer of the Daily News articles was a certain X . . . , a member of the Stalinist party in the United States and a collaborator of Federated Press. As an appendix to the present letter, I am- sending you a written account on this individual which has not been published up to now. The mechanism of the provocation is perfectly clear: on one hand, the Stalinist agencies give the Daily News manifestly false information, thus utilizing the bad faith of a reactionary publication belonging to big capital; on the other hand, the publication of these articles is used (through the intermediary of Toledano and Company) to give the impression that I myself was the inspirer. Finally a supplementary "profit" accrues to these gentlemen in that they can immediately interpret my replies and refutations as an intervention on my part in Mexico's internal affairs. Baseness has no limits. The whole mechanism of this provocation carries a quite specific trademark consisting of three letters: GPU. It is easy to see this trademark on the faces of these eminent slanderers.

The purpose of this letter is to pose to you, dear friend, the juridical question: do the laws of the United States give me the opportunity of filing suit against the Daily News and in so doing to expose the provocateurs? I am hoping there are provisions against journalists who knowingly spread false information in order to cause a particular person material and moral harm. And here it is a matter of a not unimportant harm: this whole plot is aimed at depriving us, my wife and me, of the hospitality of Mexico and delivering us into the hands of the GPU's executioners. I would like to add that, in the latest article in the Daily News, October 29, 1938, it is stated that Mexican oil is being sold to Japan and Italy on my recommendation and furthermore that my objective is military damage to the Soviet Union. This statement is clearly aimed at dishonoring me politically, and, I presume, falls under the normal legal provisions in North America safeguarding the moral and material interests of individuals and citizens.