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Leon Trotsky 19381202 Open Letter to Senator Allen

Leon Trotsky: Open Letter to Senator Allen

December 2, 1938

[Writings of Leon Trotsky, Vol 11, 1938-1938, New York ²1974, p. 138-141]

Dear Sir:

On July 27 you paid me the honor of calling on me in Coyoacan. I had not sought this honor. I must confess I even tried to avoid it. But you were persistent. Because it turned out that I had no free time before your departure from Mexico, you joined a tour of the Committee on Cultural Relations with Latin America. Thus, among the friends of Mexico one of its active enemies unexpectedly appeared.

I will venture to say that the figure of Senator Allen did stand out quite sharply at our modest gathering on Avenida Londres. By his every remark, by the expression on his face, and by the intonation of his voice it was obvious that this man was fully insured against the slightest capacity to sympathize with the needs of oppressed classes and people and that he was thoroughly imbued with the interests of the upper echelons of capitalist society and with the imperialists' hatred for any liberation movement.

You took part in a general discussion, Senator. After your return to the States, you submitted articles to a number of newspapers dealing with your visit to Mexico and with me in particular. On November 22 you returned to the topic in your address to the annual dinner of the New York Chamber of Commerce. You are pursuing your goal with an undeniable tenacity. What is your goal? We will begin with the article.

According to your words, you found that my yard was soggy –it was the rainy season –but my remarks were all too dry. Far be it from me to take issue with these appraisals. But you went further. You have tried tendentiously to distort the fact that I spoke to you in the presence of forty people. This I cannot allow you to do. Ironically, you mention that the questions put to me by the tour members concerned the "hair-splitting of Marxist doctrine." "Not one of the questions concerned Mexico," you added significantly.

This is absolutely true: beforehand I had asked the tour leader, Dr. Hubert Herring, not to include Mexican politics as a topic for discussion. This, of course, was in no way because I hoped by this to conceal, as you imply, some sort of "conspiracy" on my part; but only because I did not want to give my enemies grounds for additional insinuations (there are enough of those as it is). But you, Mr. Senator, fearlessly took the bull by the horns and posed the question for the sake of which, according to your own words, you had paid me the visit, namely: "Mr. Trotsky, what is your evaluation of the new Communist leader, President Cardenas, compared with the Communist leaders in Russia?" to which I allegedly answered: "He is actually more progressive than some of them."

Allow me to say, Mr. Senator, that this is not true. If you had asked me such a question in the presence of forty intelligent and thoughtful people, very likely they would all have burst into jovial laughter, and I would undoubtedly have joined them. But you did not compromise yourself by asking such a question. And I gave you no such answer.

The fact is that in the discussion I simply tried to restore to the word "communism" its genuine meaning. At the present time, reactionaries and imperialists call everything that does not please them "communism" (sometimes "Trotskyism"). On the other hand, the Moscow bureaucracy calls everything that serves its interests communism. In passing, by way of example, I remarked: although Stalin bears the title Communist, in reality he is carrying out reactionary policies; the Mexican government, which is not in the least Communist, is carrying out progressive policies. This was the only reference I made to that subject. Your attempt to attribute to me a characterization of the Mexican government as "Communist" is false and fatuous, although it may possibly have been useful for your purposes.

Colonial and semicolonial countries or countries of colonial origin are late in passing through the state of national-democratic, not "Communist," development. History, it is true, does not repeat itself. Mexico entered into the democratic revolution in a different epoch and under different conditions than the first-born of history. But as a historical analogy it can, nevertheless, be said that Mexico is passing through the same stage of development that the States passed through, for example, beginning with the Revolutionary War and ending with the Civil War against slavery and secession. During that three-quarters of a century the North American nation was in process of formation on bourgeois-democratic foundations. The emancipation of the Negroes, i.e., the expropriation of the slaveholders, was considered and proclaimed by all the Allens of that time to be in defiance of divine prophecy and – incomparably worse – a violation of property rights, i.e., communism and anarchism. However, from the scientific point of view, it is indisputable that the Civil War led by Lincoln was not the beginning of the Communist revolution but only the completion of the bourgeois-democratic one.

However, a scientific historical analysis is the last thing that interests you, Senator. You called on me, as is obvious from your words, in order to find in my remarks something that you could use in your campaign against the Mexican government. Because you found nothing that was suitable, you indulged in fabrications. Hand in hand with the Daily News, you are developing the idea that I am the one who inspired the measures for the expropriation of property owned by foreigners and am preparing – the reconstruction of Mexico on Communist principles. You write explicitly about a "Trotskyist Communist state!"

During your stay in this country you could have easily found out from your co-thinkers (you yourself mention "secret" meetings with them) how far I stand apart from Mexican politics. But this does not stop you. As proof that Mexico is being transformed into a "Trotskyist state," you cite the growing influence of the Mexican trade unions and the individual role of Lombardo Toledano, winding up your article (Herald Tribune, October 29) with the following remarkable words: "Toledano spent some time in Russia and is a follower of Trotsky."

Toledano, a follower of Trotsky– that's the limit! Every literate person in Mexico and many of the same in other countries will be convulsed with heartfelt laughter when they read this sentence – just as I was and just as my friends were when I showed them this sentence. General Cardenas as a "new Communist leader," Trotsky as the inspiration for Mexican policies, Toledano as a follower of Trotsky – and we might add further, Senator Allen as an authority on Mexico!

You, Mr. Senator, made an appearance at my home as a spy for petroleum capital. We will not ask ourselves how worthy of respect this role is in general. Our standards and yours are much too different. However, there are different categories of spies. Some gather the necessary information precisely, carefully, in their opinion "conscientiously," and report it to the boss. You proceed in a different way. You dream up information when you don't have enough. What you are is a negligent spy!

You advance the theory of my sinister role in the internal life of Mexico with a threefold end in mind: first, to stir up the imperialist circles of the United States against the Mexican government for allegedly being "Communist"; second, to strike the chord of national sensibility in Mexico with your nonsensical legend about the influence of a foreign immigrant on the country's policies; third, to make my personal situation in Mexico more difficult. As an arrogant imperialist to the marrow of your bones, you proceed from the unspoken assumption that Mexico is not capable of resolving its own problems without foreign aid. You are bitterly mistaken, Senator!

The political leaders in the bourgeois countries during the revolutionary epoch were, as a general rule, incomparably superior to the present-day leaders. In the oldest of the civilized countries Oliver Cromwell has been replaced by the present-day Neville Chamberlain: this says everything.

On the contrary, the backward and oppressed countries that have to struggle for their independence are much more capable of putting forth outstanding political leaders. You yourself, Mr. Senator, evidently believe you have been called upon to lead the Latin American countries. Yet your articles and speeches reveal such a limited horizon, such self-seeking and reactionary narrow-mindedness that they nearly call for condolences.

At the beginning of your banquet, Bishop William Manning prayed for the Most High to grant all the members of the Chamber of Commerce sympathy for the persecuted and deliverance from racist prejudices (New York Times, November 23). Meanwhile, I am asking myself: Is it conceivable that you would write an article registering such flippant charges with respect to Canada, for example? I answer, no; it would be impossible. You would be more careful, more attentive, and therefore more conscientious. But you believe that it is fully admissible to string together a series of absurdities with respect to Mexico. What is the reason for this difference between your attitude toward Mexico and your attitude toward Canada? I dare say it is the racist arrogance of an imperialist. Bishop Manning's prayer has obviously not helped you, Senator!

The reactionaries think that revolutions are artificially provoked by revolutionaries. This is a monstrous blunder! The exploited classes and oppressed peoples are pushed onto the road to revolution by slaveholders like Mr. Allen. These gentlemen are undermining the existing order of things with great success.