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Leon Trotsky 19380717 On the Anniversary of Reiss's Death

Leon Trotsky: On the Anniversary of Reiss's Death

July 17, 1938

[Writings of Leon Trotsky 1937-1938, New York ²1976, p. 381 f.]

The more time passes the clearer emerges the figure of Reiss, who fell so tragically on the threshold of the Fourth International. The break with the Bonapartist clique did not mean for him desertion into private life, as for certain other scared and demoralized bureaucrats. Reiss did not for a minute intend to turn aside with a mien of feigned superiority for those who continued the struggle. Before taking measures to ensure his personal safety, he wrote a principled declaration of the reasons for his shift to the banner of the Fourth International. In the very days when he was just preparing the open break with the Kremlin, he was already busy with propaganda and recruiting among his former collaborators and colleagues. One must clearly imagine the grave internal convulsions he had to go through, to understand what strength of spirit was hidden in this revolutionary fighter!

The figure of Ludwig [Reiss] becomes nearer and dearer to us the more we see of "disillusioned" and "tired" bureaucrats who, you see, are so tormented by Stalin and their own pasts that, without changing their spirit, they go straight over to the camp of bourgeois democracy or liberal semi-anarchism Under the stresses of life these gentlemen come to the conclusion that the October Revolution was just a "mistake" and that you must therefore think up something new, unseen and unheard of, completely, hermetically protected from all weaknesses and failures. And in expectation of this doctrine of salvation, the ultra-left dilettantes, allied with more open fascists, busy themselves with gossip and intrigue against revolutionaries. Are examples necessary?

Ludwig died at the very beginning of a new chapter of his life.

We all feel his death as one of the heaviest blows – and there have been many of them. It would, however, be an inadmissible error to think that his sacrifice was fruitless. By the heroic character of his conversion – from Thermidor to the revolution – Reiss brought to the treasure-house of proletarian struggle a much greater contribution than all the "disillusioned" exposers of Stalin put together. The figure of Reiss will stay alive in the memory of the young generations as a lesson and example, and inspire them all and lead them on.