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Leon Trotsky 19390104 A Necessary Statement

Leon Trotsky: A Necessary Statement

January 4, 1939

[Writings of Leon Trotsky, Vol 11, 1938-1938, New York ²1974, p. 269-274]

Over the last few months I've done everything I possibly could to forestall a clash between Comrade Rivera and our international organization. I can present at any moment the entire collection of documents characterizing my efforts. It is hardly necessary to point out that at the same time I tried to preserve relations of sincerity and friendship with Comrade Rivera, despite his more and more ambiguous, or even frankly hostile, attitude toward the Fourth International as well as toward me.

Unfortunately, my efforts have not met with success. Each time I succeeded in smoothing over some conflict or clearing up some misunderstanding, Comrade Rivera undertook a new attack without the slightest concern for the decisions of the international congress, the Pan-American Committee, or even the decisions reached collectively here. There are, I fear, profound political reasons for this attitude. At present, it has led to acts that signify Comrade Rivera's moral break with the Fourth International, and, I have every reason to fear, his preparation for breaking personal relations with me.

By chance I came across a copy of a letter Comrade Rivera sent to Andre Breton, a French writer who is fully worthy of esteem and confidence, but who is not even a member of our organization. This letter represents a venomous attack against the principles I support and even against me, morally. It contains statements that are absolutely false and that can only be intended to compromise me in the eyes of Breton and his friends, and by means that are far from straightforward.

Comrade Rivera states that I ordered his article to be published in the form of a letter (because, you see, I cannot tolerate the free expression of Rivera's ideas on art). However, it was in the presence of Rivera and other comrades that I first became aware of the fact that the article had been published in the form of a letter. I was astonished. In Rivera's presence I expressed my astonishment to the technical editor, going so far as to tell him he had acted contrary to a decision made collectively. Rivera has not forgotten any of that. This leaves just one explanation: he suspects that behind the scenes I acted contrary to the decision openly proposed by me and accepted in good faith by Rivera, and that I feigned astonishment when the technical editor made the change. Well, I reject such a suspicion with the greatest indignation.

After the meeting mentioned above, I spoke with Comrade C. about the change he had made. Here is what I understood from what he told me: It seemed to him that the article was not Marxist or, at least, that it contained anti-Marxist theses. He knew that neither I nor other friends had read the article. Because he took his responsibility as a representative of the IS [International Secretariat] seriously, he believed it necessary to disclaim any responsibility in publishing the article. He should have notified his colleagues and the author, but time was short, it seems. In any event, the crime is not overwhelming. But Comrade Diego not only found it necessary to denounce it in … Paris, but even to attribute it to me (without giving me the slightest warning) when in reality I knew absolutely nothing about it. Moreover, In order to be able to publish Rivera's article, which he expanded at the last moment, Comrade C. cut two of my articles from the issue, articles that the editors had asked me for. For the same reason (lack of time) he did not notify me about the fate of my articles, one of which has lost all news value since then. I learned about the elimination of my two articles at the same meeting at which Diego protested about the change in subtitles. There you have the pure truth.

In the same letter, Comrade Rivera accuses me of having had recourse to Stalinist (but "tender") methods, of having made a coup d'état in the matter of FIARI, etc. All that is untrue, and Comrade Rivera knows the facts at least as well as I do. To carry out a coup d'état you have to have a government, or in this case, an organization. Well, here there was not the slightest trace of either. Nothing was done in this area, for reasons we can leave aside for the moment. In the same meeting of five friends I referred to above, I proposed, in Rivera's presence, to form a provisional committee of FIARI to get things moving. Rivera not only did not protest, but willingly accepted the proposal. He said, "Yes, now, after the affair of the O'Gorman frescoes, perhaps we can get something done." I then continued, "But in that case we need a provisional secretary. Who should it be?" It seems to me that it was Comrade A. Z. who proposed the candidacy of Ferrel. I asked Ferrel, ''Would that be all right with you?" He replied, ''Why not?" or something similar. All this took place without the slightest objection from anyone and in an atmosphere of the greatest cordiality. Where the coup d'état comes in, I just don't understand. Rivera speaks of Ferrel with a note of disdain. Why? And in particular, why in a letter destined for France? As for myself, I have only known Ferrel for two or three months. When his candidacy for the editorial post came up, Diego's opinion was requested in my presence. He didn't make the slightest objection, and the post of editor is, in spite of everything, a little more important than the post of provisional secretary of an as-yet-nonexistent group of FIARI. Where, therefore, is the evidence of a coup d'état and my Stalinist methods? I do not understand at all. These two examples are sufficient to characterize Diego's ill will toward me.

As far as I can make out, this ill will is the result of my attempt to have a frank discussion with him about his political activity. I told him that he was organically incapable of carrying out the day-to-day work of a functionary of a workers' organization. On the other hand, however, thanks to his imagination and his powerful creative spirit, he could be extremely useful in the leadership, on condition, naturally, that he recognize the function of the leadership and submit to its discipline, like anyone else. It seemed to me that he decided on the spot to show me that he was capable of performing miracles in politics as well as in art (but politics is much less of an individual affair than art; in fact, you could even say that it is a collective effort by definition). He undertook a series of purely personal adventures — yes, unfortunately, adventures — in the union movement, which produced results that were negative and prejudicial to our movement. Instead of blaming himself, he began to direct his discontent against our International and against me personally.

At the same time, Rivera went through an ideological crisis that was, in its general features, identical to the crises many contemporary intellectuals have gone through: under the pressure of extreme reaction they have abandoned Marxism for some eclectic hodgepodge. In private and semiprivate discussions, Comrade Rivera has begun to defend absolutely anti-Marxist conceptions on the question of the state, the trade unions, the party, the October Revolution, and Bolshevik methods, the social function of art, the role of war in society, and so forth. If it were only a matter of private discussions, we could certainly live with it, as I have tried to do for a whole period. But his concepts, which are never fully formulated, lead him to engage in trade union activity and personal propaganda that are directed against all the fundamental principles of the Fourth International.

The situation has become absolutely intolerable. It is necessary therefore to dispense with all equivocation.

As one can see from the above, there are two aspects to the affair: the personal side and the general side. It is necessary to separate them and to liquidate the first as soon as possible. If Comrade Rivera is ready to recognize that his temperament has led him to take the path of accusations devoid of all foundation, to say the least; if he withdraws his statements in a letter addressed to Breton and sends me a copy, as well as a copy of his previous letter; then I will say no more on this question. It is unnecessary to point out that in this case I will make no use of the present statement. Rivera's setting the record straight can have the character of a personal initiative, but it must be absolutely categorical; that is, it must correspond to reality. After a formal liquidation of the personal incident, the general question remains to be dealt with. Comrade Rivera is a member of the Pan-American Committee, not to mention the Fourth International. We have our congresses, our statutes, our decisions, and our discipline. The congress tried, given Rivera's personality, to create somewhat special conditions for him, freeing him, at least for the difficult period, from the obligation to participate in the work of the Mexican section of the Fourth International. But this decision naturally cannot signify that Comrade Rivera has full freedom to act, under the banner of the Fourth International but against its principles, against its decisions, and against its institutions.

To give most recent examples, let us cite the following. On the editorial board of Clave, the Fourth International is represented by Comrades Rivera, C., and Cr. These three comrades are responsible before the Pan-American Bureau for the line of the magazine. But Rivera systematically refuses to consult this three-member Bureau and to submit to its decisions. In the last article on the Ramirez case, Rivera found it necessary, contrary to our previous proposals, to attack everything in Bolshevik politics on the question of trade unions, without clarification, without details, without citations, and without proof. When Cr. and C. proposed that he at least divide the article and hold the second part for the "Open Forum" column in the following issue, he refused to accept the proposal.

It is also necessary to mention that Comrade Rivera's attitude toward Comrade C. is not normal. C. was invited here on the direct initiative of Rivera, who offered C., in conversations with Cannon and others, his full collaboration and all the necessary facilities. C. is a very reserved comrade. He never complains. On the contrary, he does everything to adjust to the situation. But this situation, as far as I can judge, is absolutely intolerable. Far from upholding C.' s authority as the official representative of the IS, Rivera goes ahead with his own work, absolutely independently of C. This creates extremely serious organizational difficulties for C., not to mention the personal difficulties.

How can this political ambiguity be eliminated?

If the differences are really so profound as to require Rivera to carry out his own political line against the line of the Fourth International, a political break is inevitable. It can and must be carried out in a frank, open, and decisive manner. It must be clear to all that from now on the Fourth International has no responsibility for Rivera's political activities. This would be a painful and serious loss, but the present situation is even worse.

If the differences are not (or are not yet) that profound, and if Diego Rivera simply finds that his temperament has carried him beyond the bounds of what our common interests permit, it is up to Rivera himself to draw all the consequences. Time and again I have taken upon myself the initiative for a frank discussion. Now it is Rivera's turn to take this initiative, once he liquidates the personal aspect of the difficulties. I will bring to the new discussion all the goodwill I can muster. If Rivera decides to renew his activity within the normal framework of the Fourth International, all the misunderstandings of the past will be liquidated and close collaboration will once again take their place.