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Leon Trotsky 19381009 What Is the Meaning of the Struggle Against "Trotskyism"?

Leon Trotsky: What Is the Meaning of the Struggle Against


(About Lombardo Toledano and Other GPU Agents)

October 9, 1938

[Writings of Leon Trotsky, Vol 11, 1938-1938, New York ²1974, p. 40-51]

In a number of letters and conversations I have been asked about the significance of the struggle now going on within the Soviet Union between Stalinists and Trotskyists, and why in other countries, especially Mexico, various leaders of the workers' movement have abandoned their work in order to develop a slander campaign against me personally, in spite of my noninvolvement in the internal affairs of this country. I appreciate these questions because they give me a chance to answer them publicly, with the greatest possible clarity and precision.

In the first place one must clearly understand that when a political struggle of great importance develops, especially one involving tens and hundreds of thousands of people, one cannot possibly explain it in terms of any "personal" motives. Not a few superficial and scheming people attribute the struggle of Trotskyists and Stalinists to motives of personal ambition. This is an absurd position to advance. Personal ambition can only motivate individual politicians; but in the Soviet Union thousands and thousands of people who are called "Trotskyists" have been executed and are still being executed. Are these people sacrificing their positions, their freedoms, their lives, and frequently the lives of their families just for the ambition of a single individual, namely Trotsky? Conversely, it is equally absurd to think that Stalinist politics can be explained in terms of Stalin's personal ambition. This struggle has long since gone beyond the borders of the Soviet

Union. To correctly understand the meaning of the conflict that currently divides the workers' movement all over the world, one must reject, before proceeding any further, the empty talk about personal motives and begin to deal with the historical causes that have engendered it.

The whole world is familiar, even if only in its most general outlines, with the causes and problems of the October Revolution that broke out in Russia in 1917. It was the first victorious revolution of the oppressed masses, led by the proletariat. The aim of the revolution was to abolish class exploitation and inequality, to create a new socialist society based on the collective ownership of the land, mines, and factories, and to achieve a rational and just division of the products of labor among members of society. When we were carrying out this revolution, many Social Democrats (opportunist reformists like Lewis, Jouhaux, Lombardo Toledano, Laborde, etc.) told us that we couldn't succeed, that Russia was too backward a country, that communism was impossible there, etc. We answered in the following way: Of course, considered in isolation Russia is too backward and uncivilized a country to be able to build a communist society by itself. But, we added, Russia is not alone. There are more advanced capitalist countries in the world, with a more highly developed technology and culture, and a much more developed proletariat. We, the Russians, are opening up the socialist revolution; that is to say, we are taking the first bold step towards the future. But the German, French, and English workers will begin their revolutionary struggle right on our heels, will win power in those countries, and then will help us with their superior technology and culture. Under the lead of the proletariat of the more advanced countries, even the people of the backward countries (China, India, Latin America) will enter on the new socialist path. Thus we will gradually arrive at the formation of a new socialist society on a world scale.

As you know, our hopes for an early proletarian revolution in Europe did not materialize. Why not? Not because the working masses did not have the will. On the contrary, after the Great War of 1914-18, the proletariat in all the European countries initiated struggles against the imperialist bourgeoisie and showed itself to be completely disposed toward taking power. What held it back? The leaders, the conservative workers' bureaucrats, the gentlemen of the type of Lewis and Jouhaux–Lombardo Toledano's teachers.

In order to achieve its ends, the working class must create

its organizations: the unions and the political party. In this process a whole layer of bureaucrats, secretaries of unions and other organizations, deputies, journalists, etc. is raised above the level of the exploited layer. They are raised above the workers as much by their material conditions of life as by their political influence. Few of them maintain an internal connection with the working class and remain loyal to its interests. Far more labor bureaucrats begin to look towards those above them instead of those below. They begin to sidle up to the bourgeoisie, forgetting the suffering, miseries, and hopes of the laboring classes. This is the cause of many of the defeats inflicted on the working class.

In the course of history we have seen more than once that parties and organizations that have arisen out of the popular movement, have subsequently undergone a complete degeneration. That is what happened, in its day, to the Christian church which began as a movement of fishermen, of carpenters, of the oppressed, and of slaves, but which built up a powerful, rich, and cruel ecclesiastical hierarchy. This is what happened, before our very eyes, to the parties of the Second International, the so-called Social Democracy, which gradually became estranged from the real interests of the proletariat and were drawn toward the bourgeoisie. During the war, in every country, the Social Democracy defended its own national imperialism, that is to say, the interests of robber capital, selling out the interests of the workers and colonial peoples. When the revolutionary movements began in the course of the war, the Social Democracy, the party that should have led the workers toward the insurrection, in fact helped the bourgeoisie to destroy the workers' movement. The treason within its general staff paralyzed the proletariat.

This is why the hopes for a European and a world revolution after the war were never realized. The bourgeoisie maintained its hold over its wealth and power. Only in Russia, where the really revolutionary Bolshevik Party existed, did the proletariat win and create a workers' state. The Soviet Union, however, found itself isolated. Workers in the richer and more developed countries were not able to give the Soviet Union aid. As a result the Russian proletariat found itself in very difficult straits.

Had the level of technology in Russia been as high as in Germany or the United States, the socialist economy would from the start have produced everything needed to satisfy the everyday needs of the people. Under those circumstances, the Soviet bureaucracy would not have been able to play an important role, since a high level of technology would also mean a high cultural level, and the workers would never have permitted the bureaucracy to order them about. But Russia was a poor, backward country, lacking in civilization. In addition it was devastated by the years of imperialist and civil war. This is why the nationalization of the land, factories, and mines could not rapidly produce, and to this day still cannot produce, the necessary quantity of goods to satisfy the daily needs of the population, in spite of the enormous economic progress that has been made. And wherever there is a shortage of goods, a struggle for those goods inevitably develops. The bureaucracy intervenes in this struggle; arbitrating, dividing, giving to one, taking from another. Of course, in the process of doing this the bureaucracy does not forget to take care of itself. It must be remembered that in the USSR it is a matter of a bureaucracy that is not only in the party or in the unions, but also in the state apparatus. The bureaucracy has at its disposal all the nationalized property, the police, the courts, the army, and the navy.

Its control over the economy and distribution of goods has given the Soviet bureaucracy the chance to concentrate all authority in its hands, removing the laboring masses from access to power. In this way in the country of the October Revolution a new, privileged layer has risen above the masses and runs the country with methods that are almost identical to those of fascism. The workers' and peasants' Soviets no longer play any role. All power is in the hands of the bureaucracy. The person who rules is the head of this bureaucracy: Stalin.

It is impossible to say that the USSR is moving towards socialist equality. In terms of its material situation, the uppermost layer of the bureaucracy lives in the same style as the big bourgeoisie in the capitalist countries. The middle layer lives more or less like the middle bourgeoisie; and finally, the workers and peasants live under much more difficult conditions than the workers and peasants of the advanced countries. This is the plain truth.

One might ask: Does this mean that the October Revolution was a mistake? Such a conclusion would be, without question, totally wrong. The revolution is not the result of the efforts of a single person or a single party. The revolution breaks out as the culmination of a historical process, when the popular masses are no longer willing to tolerate the old forms of oppression. The October Revolution has, despite everything, made possible tremendous gains. It has nationalized the means of production and, by means of the planned economy, has made possible the extremely rapid development of the productive forces. This is an enormous step forward. All of humankind has learned from this experience. The October Revolution has given the consciousness of the popular masses a tremendous push. It has awakened a spirit of independence and initiative in them. If the situation of the workers is difficult in many respects, it is nevertheless better than it was under czarism. No, the October Revolution was no "mistake." But in an isolated Russia it could not achieve its principal goal, namely, the establishment of a fraternal, socialist society. This goal remains to be achieved.

From the moment that a new parasitic layer arose on the backs of the proletariat in the USSR, the struggle of the masses has naturally been directed against the bureaucracy as the principal obstacle in the road to socialism. When the bureaucracy tries to justify its existence, it explains that socialism has already been "achieved" through its efforts. In reality, the social question is only solved for the bureaucracy, which has a life that is far from bad. "I am the state," reasons the bureaucracy. "As long as everything is going well for me, everything is in order." There is nothing surprising about the fact that the masses of people, who have not escaped from misery, harbor feelings of hostility and hatred toward this new aristocracy, which devours a large part of the fruits of their labor.

While claiming to defend the interests of socialism, the bureaucracy actually defends its own interests and smothers and relentlessly exterminates anyone who raises any criticism against the oppression and the terrible inequality that exist in the Soviet Union. The bureaucracy supports Stalin because he defends its privileged position resolutely, implacably, and with total determination. Anyone who has not understood this has not understood anything.

It is absolutely natural that the workers, who carried out three revolutions in the space of twelve years (1905-17), should be unhappy with this regime and should have tried more than once to bring the bureaucracy under control. In the Soviet Union those representatives of working class discontent who criticize and protest are called Trotskyists because their struggle corresponds to the program I defend in the press. If the bureaucracy were fighting for the interests of the people, it would be able to castigate its enemies before the masses for real, rather than invented, crimes. But since the bureaucracy struggles only for its own interests and against those of the people and their real friends, naturally the bureaucracy can't speak truthfully about the causes of the innumerable persecutions, arrests, and executions. Therefore, the bureaucracy accuses those it calls Trotskyists of monstrous crimes which they haven't committed, and couldn't commit. In order to shoot an opponent who defends the vital interests of the workers, the bureaucracy simply declares him to be a "fascist agent." There are no checks whatsoever on the activities of the bureaucracy. During the secret court proceedings, which are carried out in the style of the Holy Inquisition, confessions to unbelievable crimes are dragged out of the accused. Such is the character of the Moscow trials, which have stirred the whole world. 48 As a result of these trials it would seem that the whole Bolshevik Old Guard, the whole generation that developed with Lenin the supremely important struggle for the conquest of power by the working class, was actually composed entirely of spies and bourgeois agents. Simultaneously the major representatives of the following generation, which bore the whole weight of the civil war on its back (1918-21), was wiped out.

So, the October Revolution was carried out by fascists? And the workers' and peasants' civil war was led by traitors? No! That is a despicable slander against the revolution and Bolshevism! The basic factor in this slander is that it was precisely those Bolsheviks who had a truly revolutionary past who were the first to protest against the new bureaucratic caste and its monstrous privileges. The bureaucracy, mortally afraid of the opposition, carried out a relentless struggle against the representatives of the old Bolshevik Party and, in the end, subjected them to almost total extermination. This is the plain truth.

The Moscow bureaucracy maintains a huge number of agents all over the world in order to maintain its authority abroad, in order to make itself appear to be the representative of the working class and the defender of socialism, and in order to hoodwink the world working class. Toward this end it spends tens of millions of dollars a year. Many of these secret agents are leaders of the workers' movement, trade union officials or officials of the so-called "Communist" parties which, in fact, no longer have anything to do with communism. The job of these paid Kremlin agents consists of deceiving the workers, presenting the Soviet bureaucracy's crimes as "defense of socialism," slandering the advanced Russian workers who are struggling against the bureaucracy, and labeling the real defenders of the workers as "fascists." "But that is a disgusting role!" exclaims every honest worker. We also believe that it is a disgusting role.

One of the most zealous and shameless of the Moscow bureaucracy's agents is Lombardo Toledano, the secretary-general of the CTM. His contemptible activity is unfolding before everyone's eyes. He defends Stalin, Stalin's violence, his betrayals, his provocateurs, and his executioners. It is not the least bit surprising that Toledano should be the most avid enemy of Trotskyism; it is the gentleman's job!

A year and a half ago the International Commission of Inquiry began its work of reviewing the Moscow trials. Toledano, along with other Stalinists, was invited to participate in this Commission: Present your accusations; bring out your evidence! Nevertheless, Toledano refused, using a false and cowardly excuse: the Commission, according to him, "was not impartial." Then why didn't the "impartial" Toledano take advantage of the opportunity to publicly demonstrate the "partiality" of the Commission? Because he doesn't have a single shred of evidence to back up the slanders he repeats at Moscow's command.

The International Commission, composed of people known throughout the world for their incorruptibility, published the results of its work in two volumes containing more than a thousand pages. All the documents were examined. Dozens of witnesses were questioned. Every lie and slander was studied under a microscope. The Commission unanimously found that all the accusations against me and against my late son Leon Sedov are malicious fabrications concocted by Stalin. What did Stalin and his agents reply? Nothing –not a single word. In spite of this, Toledano continues to present and defend Moscow's false accusations and adds new ones of his own manufacture. "But this is shameful!" any honest worker will exclaim. Absolutely true. It is disgraceful beyond description!

This February the congress of the CTM adopted a resolution against Trotsky and the "Trotskyists." The resolution repeats, word-for-word the false accusations of Prosecutor Vyshinsky, who used to be the lawyer for the oil magnates of the Caucasus before the revolution and who has long been known as a complete scoundrel, so How could the congress of a workers' organization possibly adopt such a disgraceful resolution? Direct responsibility for this falls in the lap of Lombardo Toledano, who in this case was not acting in his capacity as secretary of a union, but rather as an agent of Stalin's secret police, the GPU.

It hardly needs to be stated that I personally have nothing to say against Mexican workers' organizations forming an opinion about "Trotskyism" as a political tendency and making their conclusions public. But in order to do this a clear and honest examination of the question is necessary; this is an elementary requisite of workers' democracy. Before the congress it would have been necessary to submit the question of "Trotskyism" to all the unions to examine. It would have been necessary to allow supporters of "Trotskyism" the chance to express their views directly to the workers. In the congress that was preparing to judge me, moreover, the most elementary courtesy would demand that I be invited to explain myself. In reality, the machinations imposed by Moscow were prepared not only behind my back, but also behind the backs of the Mexican workers. No one knew beforehand that the questions of Trotsky and "Trotskyism" would be placed before the congress. In order to serve Stalin's ends Toledano conspired against the Mexican workers. The delegates to the congress had no informational material whatsoever available to them; they were surprised by a military-like strategem. The ignoble resolution was imposed by Toledano in the same way that Stalin, Hitler, and Goebbels carry out the decisions of the "people." This method of operation indicates a "totalitarian" scorn for the working class. At the same time, Toledano demands that the Mexican government gag me and deprive me of the chance to defend myself against the slanders. This is the champion of "democracy," Lombardo the Lion-hearted!

He has not been limited, however, to simply repeating the official falsehoods of Prosecutor Vyshinsky in Moscow. Toledano also employs his own imagination. Soon after my arrival in Mexico, Toledano publicly stated that I was preparing a general strike against General Cardenas's government. The absurdity of this "accusation" is obvious to any reasonable person, but Toledano is not deterred by absurdity: Moscow demands zeal and obedience. The same Toledano stated in Mexico, New York, Paris, and Oslo that in the whole of Mexico I had no more than ten friends, a figure which was later reduced to five and finally to only two. If this is so, how could

I begin to organize a general strike and conspiracy? On the other hand, what happened to all my "friends" on the right – the fascists, the "brown shirts," etc.? As can be seen, the intellectual level of Toledano's accusations does not significantly differ from the level of accusations directed against the opponents of the bureaucracy in Moscow. But Toledano doesn't have his own GPU to defend him with revolvers against criticism. This should have suggested greater caution to him!

The other Mexican GPU agent, Laborde, the leader of the so-called "Communist" Party (who could believe it?) declared, at a solemn meeting last autumn, in front of a large audience that included the president of the republic, that I was secretly allied with (now pay careful attention!) General Cedillo and with Vasconselos; in order, of course, to stage a fascist coup d'etat. Laborde, compromising himself and dishonoring his party, was reduced to hurling such an idiotic accusation solely because he, like Toledano, had received orders to do this from Moscow, where they long ago lost all sense of proportion, not only as regards morality but also as regards logic and psychology. The student cannot be on a higher level than the teacher. The GPU agent cannot do as he pleases. He has to follow his boss's orders. Not to do so would immediately result in Laborde's party being deprived of Moscow's subsidy and crumbling like a house of cards.

This summer I took a trip through Mexico to learn more about the country that had offered my wife and me such generous hospitality. In Toledano's newspaper, El Popular, they published the news that during my trip I had met with counterrevolutionaries, and particularly with the pro-fascist Dr. Atl. I stated in the press that I didn't know Dr. Atl. But my categoric denial in no way deterred Mr. Toledano from publishing notes and cartoons placing me in Dr. Atl's company. What does this signify? Toledano is a lawyer; he knows the meaning of "slander" and "false testimony." He knows that nothing discredits a person as much as the spreading of a conscious slander for personal reasons. How is it possible for him to fall so low, sacrificing his reputation as a leader of workers and as an honest person? It is likely that Toledano himself senses that a worm is eating away his conscience. But Toledano is standing on a slope. He's slipping and he can't stop himself. The GPU does not make it easy for its victims to escape its clutches.

One may object that I'm placing too much emphasis on

Toledano, but this is not true. Toledano is not an individual. He is a type. There is a multitude of carbon copies of him: a whole mercenary army trained by Moscow! By using the example of Toledano I am unmasking this army, which sows the seeds of lies and cynicism in public opinion.

Each time I feel obligated to refute the latest slanders emanating from Toledano and Laborde, these gentlemen scream that I am ... an enemy of the Mexican Confederation of Workers. What a ridiculous charge! Lombardo and Laborde carry out their machinations under cover of the workers. When they are caught in the act, they proceed to hide behind the workers. What knaves! What heroes! . . . And what miserable sophists! How could I, a man who has spent forty-two years of his life in the service of the workers' movement, have a hostile attitude towards a proletarian organization struggling for the betterment of the lot of the workers? But the CTM is not Toledano and Toledano is not the CTM. Whether or not Toledano is a good union official is a question that must be decided by the Mexican workers themselves. But when Toledano sallies forth to defend the GPU's executioners against the best of Russia's workers, then I too must publicly rise and tell the workers of Mexico and the world: "Toledano is a treacherous liar acting in behalf of the Kremlin gang! Don't believe him!"

Toledano's methods are identical to those used in the Moscow trials. In essence both substitute detective stories for political differences: they invent monstrous concoctions to stagger the imagination of the unsophistocated; they lie and slander; they slander and lie. In Moscow they assert that I had a secret meeting with the fascist minister Hess (whom I have never seen in my life and with whom, of course, I would never have any dealings). Here in Mexico they claim I had a secret meeting with this Dr. Atl, about whom I know nothing. This is the GPU school.

But in spite of these similarities, there is a difference. The GPU, after silencing every critic and making use of false witnesses, has the opportunity to drag false confessions out of the accused. If they can't do it that way, they shoot the accused in secret, without benefit of trial or court proceedings. In Mexico, Mr. Toledano still doesn't have the chance to use this kind of repression. Of course, he makes full use of the falsifications manufactured in Moscow, such as the totally dishonest and worthless film Lenin in October, for example, but this alone is not enough. Humanity is not composed solely of imbeciles. Not a few people are able to think. For this reason, it is easy to unmask Toledano's slanders. And we will continue this work of disclosure until the end!

I propose that a public investigation be held of Toledano's charges concerning preparations for the general strike against General Cardenas's government, concerning my "relations" with Cedillo and Vasconselos, concerning my secret discussions with Dr. Atl, etc., etc. We have here an excellent opportunity to establish the truth or falsity of the specific charges. Mr. Toledano, who is so zealous in his defense of the trials in Moscow, will do Stalin a great service if he can show the validity of the charges against me here in Mexico. I propose that an impartial commission be named to publicly investigate Toledano's accusations against me. Tell them to the judge! Accusers, present your evidence!

However, we are under no illusions. Toledano won't accept the challenge. He doesn't dare accept it. He cannot appear before an impartial commission, which would inevitably be transformed into a vehicle for the unmasking of the GPU and its agents. Evidence? What kind of evidence can the slanderer marshal? The slanderer has a lack of scruples and a disgraceful conscience. He has nothing else!

From what has already been said, every intelligent person will draw this simple conclusion: if here in Mexico, where freedom of the press and the right of asylum still exist, Stalin's agents are permitted to make such absurd and dishonorable accusations, all the while demanding that the accused not be allowed to open his mouth in his own defense, what must Stalin's agents be permitted to do in the Soviet Union itself, where all criticism, opposition, and protest are smothered in the totalitarian regime's press? In the process, and against his own wishes, Toledano has given Mexican public opinion the key to all the Moscow trials. One must say, in a general sense, that overly zealous friends are more dangerous than enemies.

My ideas are distasteful to the whole spectrum of opportunists and profiteers. I would consider it a great disgrace if my ideas were to suit these gentlemen. The oppressed cannot gain their emancipation under the leadership of the opportunists and profiteers. Let these gentlemen try to publicly attack my ideas! I belong to the Fourth International and I don't hide my colors. The Fourth International is the only world party that carries out a real struggle against imperialism, fascism, oppression, exploitation, and war. Only this young and growing organization expresses the real interests of the world proletariat. Precisely for this reason it struggles implacably against the corrupt bureaucracy of the old, patriotic Second and Third Internationals. The rabid hatred of the opportunists, adventurers, and self-satisfied profiteers toward "Trotskyism" stems from this. Where it is able to do so, the Kremlin gang assassinates our fighters (Erwin Wolf, Ignace Keiss, Leon Sedov, Rudolf Klement, and many others). Where it cannot do this, it slanders them. It lacks neither money nor paid agents. Nevertheless, it is destined for a shameful collapse. Revolutionary ideas that correspond to the needs of historical development will overcome every obstacle. The slanderers will break their head against the invincible truth.