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Leon Trotsky 19380317 New Defectors

Leon Trotsky: New Defectors

March 17, 1938

    [Writings of Leon Trotsky 1937-1938, New York 1970, p. 275 f.]

After a series of furious purges of foreign Soviet personnel, four big Kremlin agents have become defectors in the last few months: Ignace Reiss, Alexander Barmin, Walter Krivitsky, and finally Fyodor Butenko. If you consider the training, selection, checking, and especially the system of hostages, you have to agree that this percentage is extraordinarily high. It bears witness to the strength of the centrifugal forces which are tearing apart the bureaucracy itself. This fact is highlighted even more sharply if you take a look at the political orientation of the new defectors.

Ignace Reiss immediately took up his stand under the banner of the Bolshevik-Leninists. This clearly indicated his political and moral weight. Only a real revolutionary could have decided on such a step under the present conditions. But at the first steps on his new path Reiss fell, one of the heroes of the Fourth International. He left a wife and child who were indissolubly connected with him in life and remain faithful to his memory after his death. When his son is old enough to pick up the banner fallen from his father's hands, the Fourth International will already be a great historical force.

Alexander Barmin went to the left of the bureaucracy, but has evidently still not finally chosen his path. We have no grounds or right to hasten him. We understand too well the difficulty and responsibility of choice after years spent in the barracks of the Stalin bureaucracy. Let us hope he chooses right!

Walter Krivitsky, if the signs do not deceive us, is drawn to the camp of bourgeois democracy. We do not mean by this that he is going to the right of the Stalin bureaucracy. The ranks of the Soviet apparatus are filled with officials with a bourgeois habit of thought. When they throw off the overcoat of Stalinism, they simply disclose their real political nature. If our supposition about Krivitsky proves false, we shall be the first to be delighted thereby.

Fyodor Butenko has made the jump to fascism. Did he have to deny himself much? Wrestle with himself much? We do not think so. A very considerable and growing part of the Soviet apparatus consists of fascists who have not yet recognized themselves. To identify the Soviet regime as a whole with fascism is a crude historical error into which ultra-left dilettantes are inclined to fall, ignoring the difference in social bases. But the symmetry of the political superstructures and the similarity of totalitarian methods and psychological types is striking. Butenko is a symptom of tremendous importance: he shows us the careerists of the Stalin school in their natural form.

If it were possible to X-ray politically the whole Soviet apparatus, we would find in it: concealed Bolsheviks, confused but honest revolutionaries, bourgeois democrats, and finally, candidates for fascism. It can be said with conviction that the more reactionary the nature of the grouping, the faster it is growing within the bureaucracy.

The political riddle of the Moscow trials is whether the apparatus which raised Stalin to power wants to go on carrying him on its back. The centrifugal forces within the bureaucracy only reflect in their turn the deep social antagonisms in the "classless" society and the general hatred of the masses for the bureaucracy. Stalin's own faction is numerically small and consists of the most utter scoundrels, such as Vyshinsky and Yezhov. Bolshevism strove toward a state without bureaucracy, "of the Commune type." Stalin has created a state of a bureaucracy devouring itself, "of the GPU type." That is why the agony of Stalinism is the most frightful and repellent spectacle in human history!