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Leon Trotsky 19380205 Letter to John G. Wright

Leon Trotsky: Letter to John G. Wright

February 5, 1938

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 14, New York 1979, p 754 f., title: “Explanation of a complaint”]

My Dear Comrade Wright:

Permit me to say with all the sincere and warm friendship which I feel for you that in the "Joe" case of the translation you are not just. The factual responsibility falls totally upon me. I was from the beginning very vividly interested in the absolute correctness of this translation for many reasons:

    a. It is a preface to the Communist Manifesto and I have a great respect for this document.

    b. The English translation is to be translated into Afrikaans which opens a possibility for multiplication of every mistake.

    c. I hoped that our English-speaking sections will publish the Manifesto with this preface, and so on.

That is why I asked you to send me a copy of your translation. I was the first to read it over and to find five or six factual errors, two or three of which were of importance. Unfortunately I can find errors but I am incapable of correcting them with good English. For this reason I asked the assistance of Joe. He corrected not only the factual errors annotated by me but several stylistic unevennesses, or what seemed to him to be unevennesses. These are the facts of the matter. If you had rejected some of Joe's stylistic changes, neither I nor I am sure Joe would have reproached you. You are the author of the translation and the corrections had the character of advice or proposals and not of "command." If in The New International I had found your translation without any stylistic changes but with the important factual corrections, we here would have been entirely satisfied. What seemed to me absolutely incomprehensible was the fact that nobody even read the corrected text: otherwise it would have been absolutely impossible to have left the evident errors unchanged. (And that the editors had our text in time was clear from the changed title.) Under these conditions the appearance of the old text without any corrections (even "cosmopolitan" was not replaced by "metropolitan") seemed to me a manifestation of lack of good will. And this explains the sharp form of my protest. Joe had absolutely nothing to do with it.

We haven't as yet received the second issue of The New International. I wait for it with great interest. I sent an article to the Socialist Appeal about Kronstadt supplementing your own. I wrote it without materials but I hope not to have committed mistakes. If it is not too late it would be very good if you would attentively read the manuscript as you have all the facts fresh in your mind.

I am sure that we will find the necessary forms of collaboration, eliminating nervousness on both sides. With my friendliest greetings.

Yours as ever, Leon Trotsky