Isaac Deutscher - Trotskyist, and shaper of the New Left

Selections by Peter Myers, May 6, 2003; update October 29, 2010. My comments are shown {thus}.

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Communism has "fallen", yet it seems to reign in our universities and courts. Open Borders, Gay Marriage, Political Correctness ... these are the signs. The secret: what has fallen is Stalinism; that's all.

In its place, the New Left largely dominates our culture. And the New Left is largely Trotskyist in inspiration. The Frankfurt School (devoted to Marx and Freud; opposed to Stalin as much as Hitler) has had a great impact.

Perceptions of the Left have been largely shaped by Isaac Deutscher, a Jewish Trotskyist prominent in New Left Review.

Deutscher's biography of Trotsky is a trilogy comprises the volumes

(volume 1) The Prophet Armed Trotsky: 1879-1921
(volume 2) The Prophet Unarmed Trotsky: 1921-1929
(volume 3) The Prophet Outcast Trotsky: 1929-1940

Stalin's Purges were directed at the Left Opposition, led by three "dissatisfied Jewish intellectuals" Trotsky, Zinoviev & Kamenev. The evidence presented at the Moscow Trials was 90% fabrication, but 10% genuine: there really was a Trotsky-Zinoviev bloc aiming to remove Stalin: stalin-purges.html.

(1) Isaac Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jew and other essays (2) Isaac Deutscher, The Great Purges (3) Yuri Slezkine on Stalin's Great Purge (4) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin (5) Articles about Deutscher (6) Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed (7) Deutscher an "insider" in the British Establishment (8) The Prophet Outcast Trotsky: 1929-1940 (8) When Trotsky applied for asylum in Britain, he was supported by Sidney & Beatrice Webb, H. G. Wells, Bernard Shaw & Keynes (9) Britain rejected Trotsky's application to avoid alienating Stalin (10) Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Unarmed Trotsky: 1921-1929

(1) Isaac Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jew and other essays, ed. Tamara Deutscher, OUP, London 1968 .

{p. 25} The non-Jewish Jew

THERE is an old Talmudic saying: 'A Jew who has sinned still remains a Jew.'

{p. 26} The Jewish heretic who transcends Jewry belongs to a Jewish tradition. You may, if you like, see Akher as a prototype of thse great revolutionaries of modern thought: Spinoza, Heine, Marx, Rosa Luxembourg, Trotsky, and Freud. You may, if you wish to, place them in a Jewish tradition. They all went beyond the boundaries of Jewry.

{p. 28} Did they have anything in common with one another? Have they perhaps impressed mankind's thought so greatly because of their special 'Jewish genius'? I do not believe in the exclusive genius of any race. Yet I think that in some ways they were very Jewish indeed. They had in themselves something of the quintessence of Jewish life and of the Jewish intellect. They were a priori exceptional in that as Jews they dwelt on the borderlines of various civilizations, religions, and national cultures. They were born and brought up on the borderlines of various epochs. Their mind matured where the most diverse cultural influences crossed and fertilized each other. They lived on the margins or in the nooks and crannies of their respective nations. Each of them was in society and yet not in it, of it and yet not of it. It was this that enabled them to rise in thought above their societies, above their nations, above their times and generations, and to strike out mentally into wide new horizons and far into the future.

{p. 48} ... European socialism as a rule accepted and encouraged the assimilation of the Jews as part of a wider and progressive movement in consequence of which modern society was supposed to be shedding its particularist and nationalist traditions.

For many centuries the positive element of Jewish identity was rooted in the exceptional role the Jew played in European society; in the age of feudalism and early capitalism he represented the money-economy and its ideas to people whose ways of thinking were conditioned by natural economy. It was not a matter of chance that in the Christian mind the Jew was identified with a symbol like Shylock, or Fagin, a symbol which appears in world literature in many versions and varieties. Nor was it a meshumad's malice that caused Marx to say that the Jews' real God was Money. He intended this not as a moral condemnation of Jewry, but as a factual statement about the Jews' particular function in Christian society. He went on to say that Christian society, as it grew more and more capitalist, was becoming more and

{p. 49} more 'judaized'.

... Marx, Engels, Rosa Luxemburg, and Trotsky repeatedly said that mankind was confronted by the alternative of either international socialism or barbarism ...

Nazism was nothing but the self-defence of the old order against communism. The Nazis themselves felt that their role consisted in this; the whole of German society saw them in this role; and European Jewry has paid the price for the survival of capitalism, for the success of capitalism in defending itself against a socialist revolution.

{p. 51} ... to me the Jewish community is still only negative. I have nothing in common with the Jews of, say, Mea Shaarim or with any kind of Israeli nationalists. I am attracted to the left-wing Marxists in Israel, but I feel just as close to like-minded people in France, Italy, Britain, and Japan, or to those masses of Americans whom I addressed in Washington and San Francisco at vast protest meetings against the war in Vietnam. Are we now going to accept the idea that it is racial ties or 'bonds of blood' that make up the Jewish community? Would not that be another triumph for Hitler and his degenerate philosophy?

{But many such Jews have since become "Neocons", followers of Sharon.They opposed the Vietnam War to bring down "Christian" civilization; but they endorse an expansionist Israel: cia-infiltrating-left.html}

If it is not race, what then makes a Jew?

Religion? I am an atheist.

{but a religion can be atheistic - Buddhism is; David Ben Gurion, following Aaron David Gordon, endorsed an atheistic variant of the Jewish religion: philos.html}

Jewish nationalism? I am an internationalist. In neither sense am I, therefore, a Jew. I am, however, a Jew by force of my unconditional solidarity with the persecuted and exterminated. I am a Jew because I feel the Jewish tragedy as my own tragedy; because I feel the pulse of Jewish history; because I should like to do all I can to assure the real, not spurious, security and self-respect of the Jews.

{i.e. Deutscher identifies with the history of Jews; subjective identity being the key factor}

{p. 54} In Russia the Pale of Settlement made any organic spiritual growing together of Jews and Slavs impossible. In Poland Jews lived in virtual ghettoes even before 1940. Polish nationalism, anti-semitism, and Catholic clericalism on the one hand, and Jewish separatism, orthodoxy, and Zionism on the other, worked against a lasting and fruitful symbiosis. It was, we should remember, the theorists of Zionism and not only those of socialism, who spoke of the unproductive character of the Jewish 'economy' in the Diaspora; an antagonism between the productive and unproductive elements of society was inevitable in any case; and upon this socially and economically determined antagonism there grew over the centuries the huge superstructure of ideological estrangement. Such was the estrangement that in Poland, for instance, there never existed any point of contact between Polish and Yiddish literature. To put it more accurately, Polish writers, academicians, educa-

{p. 55} tionists were not even aware of the fact that Warsaw was the centre of a flourishing modem Yiddish literature, read and admired by Jews (and not only Jews) all over the world.

... the Jew who was the greatest master of Russian prose in the generation of the revolution was Leon Trotsky, yet it was not qua Jew that he exercised an influence.

{p. 56} An unrepentant Marxist, an atheist, an internationalist - in what sense am I then a Jew? what is it that brings me near that 'negative community'?

{But Deuscher himself wrote (above), "The Jewish heretic who transcends Jewry belongs to a Jewish tradition". He calls himself a "non-Jewish Jew" rather than an "ex-Jew". David Ben-Gurion was an atheist, yet everyone accepts him as a Jew; he even wanted to fulfil the millennial goals of the Jewish Bible: bengur-bible.html. Deuscher fits the non-theistic variant of Judaism: philos.html}

{p. 60} The Russian Revolution and the Jewish Problem

ANYONE approaching the topic of this lecture, the Russian Revolution and the Jewish problem, must do so with trepidation, because it is an extremely complex and many-sided question. Nothing would be easier, and more harmful, than to simplify it, to try and apportion blame to blame the Jews, or the revolution, or the Russians. We must also beware of thinking of this problem in the familiar terms of the relationship between revolutionary Russia and other nationalities of the Soviet Union. In this sense the 'Jewish problem' is unique. To see it in all its true complexity we should go back to its origin. We should analyse briefly the structure of the Jewish population at the beginning of the revolution, investigate the place of the Jews in Russian society, follow the changes and metamorphoses of the Russian revolution itself, and appraise the impact of all these changes on the fate of the Jews in the Soviet Union. The main question we have to face and answer candidly is this: Why has the Russian revolution not succeeded, in the course of nearly half a century, in solving the Jewish problem ?

{What about other questions, addressed to the experience of the "recipients" of the Revolution, such as : How is it that a revolution "of the people" was constructed and led by a minority people of 2-3%, a people who had felt isolated and alienated from the majority? Why was the knowledge of the real creation of the new regime suppressed? Why do Jews STILL suppress that knowledge? Was the cruelty of the early regime related to its minority domination of the majority? Was the cruelty of the Stalinist years related to a struggle against this minority conspiracy? }

{p. 61} I must begin by drawing a sharp contrast between the place of Jews in Western societies and their place in Eastern Europe and especially in Russia; and by warning that to look at the Jewish problem in Russia through the prism of Jewish life in Western Europe, is to see with distorted vision and embark on an inquiry that will lead you nowhere. You must not for a single moment imagine that Jewish life and the Jewish community in Eastern Europe and in Russia resembled in any way the Jewish community in England, in France, or even in the United States.

Throughout the nineteenth century the Jews in the countries of Western Europe belonged mainly to the middle class. There were very few Jewish workers {so why did Jews claim to lead the working class?}, not many Jewish artisans, some small shopkeepers. Most Jews were merchants, transacting their business on a large scale in many western capitals. Some of them were great bankers, and the House of Rothschild became almost a symbol of the Jewish haute bourgeoisie. This predominantly bourgeois character of the Jewish community in Western Europe stood in marked contrast to the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. True, in the East we also possessed our Jewish bourgeoisie, our merchants or shopkeepers. But the great majority of Jews were poor toilers, primitive artisans, cobblers, tailors, carpenters, and what were grandly called 'metal workers'. But make no mistake and do not think in terms of, say, French metallos or British steel workers. Those 'metal workers', as I knew them, were mostly plumbers, tinkers, locksmiths. They used to form some sort of fraternity and call it the Trade Union of Metal Workers. It was a colossal boost to all those paupers to belong to a union with such a grandiose name; but they were paupers all the the same. Imagine a population of millions of destitute,

{p. 62} poverty-stricken Jews, among them a host of so-called Luftmenschen, that is people without any roots in the social structure of society, without any occupation, without any regular livelihood; hawkers, rag and bone men, people who made a living as match-makers - they did not make matches but marriages and weddings, and haggled over the percentage of the dowry that was to be their reward.

In Western Europe after the French revolution the Jews enjoyed formal equality in the eyes of the law. (In 1847 Lionel Rothschild, the first Jewish M.P., was elected to the House of Commons.) This equality before the law went hand in hand with the growing assimilation of the Jewish community, for even those sections which preserved their religion and Jewish consciousness became assimilated through adopting the language of the countries they lived in and acquiring the outward appearance of their compatriots. In Eastern Europe the great masses of Jews, millions of them, lived in compact communities, separated from their non-Jewish environment. These ghettoes were not formal; Jews were allowed to go out of them and they did indeed go out. Nevertheless they lived in close communities, wore distinct clothes - complete with beards and sidelocks, spoke their own language, developed their own culture, their own literature; their knowledge of Polish or Russian was often less than rudimentary. Their tongue remained Yiddish. There was also, of course, a minority of educated Jews who became more and more assimilated and indistinguishable in their habits and customs from the indigenous intelligentsia. But the way of life of the great mass of orthodox Jews had developed very little in the course of centuries. They still carried on a kind of primitive trade such as had been practised in the sixteenth or seven

{p. 63} teenth centuries; and their religious taboos and rites were equally archaic and anachronistic.

{Deutscher implies that Eastern Jews were KEPT subordinated by the Slavs. But Robert Wilton wrote in Russia's Agony (1918) of the Jews "{p. 57} All business was in their hands. They acted as agents to the great landlords. {p. 59} ... the proportion of Jewish undergraduates ... represented more than double the Jewish to the Gentile population ... the Jews yet managed to exceed the norm at the close of their studies, because they were more persistent ... Attempting to safeguard the Russians from the Jewish encroachment became more pronounced and desperate {p. 60} as the tide of Hebrew invasion rose higher": wilton.html}

{Jacob Schiff wrote in a letter in 1917: "With the revolution in Russia, which ... has done away with the so-called Jewish pale, the several millions of Jews ... have acquired the right to remove and settle wherever they may choose ... her Jewish inhabitants will gradually disperse ... it will ... not unlikely tend to end the development of Jewish culture and Jewish ideals which the pale brought forth, because the pale possessed of necessity the character - even if produced by unjust and oppressive laws - of a Jewish center from which Jewry the world over drew to a very considerable extent the spiritual nourishment it ever needs for continued existence. ... I profited by the first opportunity to give public expression to ... the desirability to seek the establishment of a Jewish homeland - and, logically, this should {p. 315} be Palestine ...": house-schiff.html. After having condemned Russia for years, Schiff here admits a good side to the Pale, and wants a similar Pale recreated in Palestine}

In Western Europe along with the assimilation went the emancipation of the Jews. Not so in Eastern Europe. In Russia, in particular, the Jews had the status of 'citizens of the second or third category'. They were not allowed to settle in Russia proper but only within the so-called Jewish pale; they were not allowed to own land; certain occupations were closed to them. Their position was little better than that of the Russian and Polish peasant serfs. But peasants were at least not subjected to the pogroms, outbursts of anti-semitism and wholesale massacres, which were both spontaneous and yet very often encouraged by the authorities. ...

{p. 66} In Western Europe there were no Jewish workers, or only very few, and consequently there was no Jewish working class movement. {Yet Jews led the Workers' Revolutions there, accordsing to Benjamin Disraeli: disraeli.html and J. L. Talmon: talmon.html} The socialist leaders stuck to the view that the only answer to the Jewish question was total assimilation.

{p. 67} Among the Jews of Eastern Europe the feeling that only the overthrow of Tsardom by way of revolution could relieve the discrimination and oppression to which they were subjected, became almost universal; and Jews played a very prominent part in the revolutionary movement.

{Deutscher here is saying that Jewish involvement was merely a contingency, devoid of intention. But see Harry Waton and Ben-Ami Shillony on Jewish ideas of Communism as a variant of Redemption, a primary goal of the Jewish religion. Waton at mandate.html and Shillony at japan.html}

But when the revolution did come ...

{p. 70} ... Jewish intellectuals or white-collar workers who occupied higher positions in party and state, in army and civilian institutions, in the educational system, and those prominent in the press, the cinema and the theatre, evoked a certain envy and jalousie de metier. In Trotsky's correspondence with Lenin during the civil war there is a striking illustration of this atmosphere. Trotsky, then the head of the Red Army and the Commissar of Defence, wrote a confidential message from the front in which he demanded that all Jews in the safe administrative military jobs be withdrawn from their offices and sent to the fronts. There is too much talk among the soldiers, wrote the Jew Trotsky, that more Jews are to be found in remote and secure places than in the front line of the battle. Even during the civil war, when the Red Army was defending the Jews against the pogroms of the White Guards, there was this fatal, but human and understandable tension in the attitude

{p. 71} of an ordinary Russian towards the more or less 'privileged' Jew.

In the Lenin era the Bolsheviks conducted a very intense anti-nationalistic, anti-religious, and anti-clerical propaganda. They conducted it with complete impartiality, condemning, denouncing, and trying to eradicate any kind of nationalism, but in the first instance Great Russian chauvinism, and proclaiming the equality of all small nations and national minorities. The Jews were allowed, and even encouraged, to publish their newspapers and their literature in Yiddish, and to develop their theatre - and the Yiddish theatre was one of the best I have known. It is now probably forgotten that the first great Hebrew theatre in history, the Habima, was founded in Russia on the initiative of the Commissar of Education, A. V. Lunacharsky. (Incidentally, the Habima soon left Russia for Palestine.) There was certainly an inconsistency here: the Bolsheviks were, on principle, opposed to the resuscitation of Hebrew, then a dead language; and when Habima performed the Dybbuk, Ansky's mystical play, protests were heard against the idealization of the Khassidic religious legends on the stage of Red Russia. But the power of artistic creation was untameable in that brief but stormy golden age of postrevolutionary art.

{Is not the Hebrew language used by Jews for RELIGIOUS purposes ... centred on the Jewish Bible? It seems that the Bolsheviks were suppressing Christianity but tolerating - even fostering - Judaism}

Clearly, the Bolsheviks took an over-optimistic view of the chances of solving the Jewish problem. They were not alone in underrating the depth of the anti-semitic instinct in Christian folklore. They thought of their revolution as the prelude to a continent-wide upheaval; they imagined that all the progressive forces of Germany and France would help them to move forward; that the sickness of anti-semitism ...

{p. 78} Despite all of Stalin's crimes we must remember that it as on his orders that two and a half million Jews from the invaded territories of Russia were helped to move towards the interior of the country and thus were saved from Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers. This is a fact which the Jewish nationalist and Zionist press all too often tends to forget. These Jews found themselves in a strange situation: evacuated hurriedly to Kazakhstan, to Uzbekistan, to the central Asian republics, bewildered and despairing, thrown into unfamiliar surroundings, they were again uprooted. They had to make a living amid the tremendous poverty and shortage of food, amid real starvation and hunger, and they became again conspicuous on the black markets, they became again the Luftmenschen. (This sad tale was related to me by many of my Polish friends deported to these regions of Russia.) It would be unjust to blame these Jewish evacuees. They were neither farmers nor peasants who could

{p. 79} coax something out of the land even in the worst conditions; they were not, most of them, skilled industrial workers - most of them were too old to be drafted into the army. They still had in them something of the mentality of the trader - now heightened by the sense of utter insecurity - who hoards a little tea and sugar, a few sacks of grain and potatoes and sells them at the best price he can get. All around them the mass of the Russian workers were starving. This again gave another impetus to the anti-semitic wave. Nevertheless, these two and a half or three million Jews, the great bulk of the Jewish communities in Russia, were saved from the Nazi massacre.

In the aftermath of the war the nerves of the nation were again on edge. To the chaos and weariness and exhaustion another disaster was added in the year I946: a catastrophic failure of the harvest such as Russia had not experienced for over half a century. Famine was widespread: and so was despair when the people started counting their dead: they had lost twenty million men in the fighting! The awareness of this tremendous loss came slowly at first. But soon it hit the nation with an unbearable force. One could not see a man on the Russian fields and farms; only women, old men, and children were tilling the land and producing the meagre crops which could hardly feed the nation. All restrictions on the employment of juvenile labour were lifted. Work and over-work was the order of the day.

Old and new antagonisms were sharp and painful. And again there started the almost subterranean struggle between the two great currents in the Russian way of thinking and in the ideology of Soviet society, the struggle between nationalism and internationalism. ...

{Duetscher obviously thinks of himself as an internationalist, yet his whole book is absorbed in things Jewish}

{p. 92} All too often, however, a shrill overtone of nationalist mysticism jars on one's ears, a mysticism which is not free of the old Chosen-People-racialism and which accords badly with the element of cool rationalism in the Jewish mind. But, after all, Israel is the country of the Zohar, that second Bible of the world's mystics, and the homeland of the Kabbalists who spun their visions on the colourful rocks of nearby Safed ... All the same, there is something disquieting in the intensity of the nationalist emotion that creeps into talks with Israelis, from the Prime Minister down to the road-mender.

Ben Gurion speaks to me bitterly about non-Zionist Jews: 'They have no roots, they are rootless cosmopolitans - there can be nothing worse than that.' I remark that he speaks as Stalin's propagandists until recently spoke about Jews at large. He waves his hands in protest:

'No, no. As Prime Minister of this country I have always maintained that, in order to be of full value to their own State, Israelis must feel that they are citizens of the world - I am not inveighing against "rootless cosmopolitanism" in the way they did in Moscow.'

This is, of course, Ben Gurion's second thougnt. Instinctively he condemns and denounces all those non-Zionist Jews in whom 'belonging to Jewry' is not a central idea or a dominant emotion. But when atention is drawn to some coincidence between his words and Stalinist propaganda

{p. 93} (of the era of 'the doctors' plot'), he blushes with embarrassment and corrects himself.

{Stalin was murdered soon after the Doctors Plot: death-of-stalin.html}

In Israel the oldest people in the world have formed the youngest nation-state; and they are emotionally anxious to make good the time lost. To nearly all the Jews here the ideal of individual and collective happiness is to grow a solid, protective national shell. This implies getting rid of the Diaspora, the memories, the habits, the tastes, and the smells of exile - millennia of exile.

{p. 96} The State of Israel has been the work primarily of the Jews of Eastern Europe, especially of Russia, Poland, and Lithuania. From their ranks came nearly all the visionaries of Zionism, except Herzl and Nordau, nearly all the early leaders, spokesmen, statesmen, and pioneers. In I948 when the Jewish State was proclaimed, Jews of Russian and Polish stock formed about one half of its population.

It was in the Eastern European ghettoes that the ancient current of Jewish life ran strongest and that Jews dreamt the dreams of Zion most intensely.

{p. 98} At the new, imposing Tel Aviv headquarters of the Histadruth some of the leaders are more at ease when they speak Russian than when they speak any other language, although they emigrated from Russia more than thirty years ago. Ben Gurion had no sooner welcomed me than he launched out on a lecture on the Russian revolution - the topic obviously fascinated him:

'One man', he said, 'could have saved the world, but, unfortunately, he missed his opportunity. That man was Lenin.'

Ben Gurion is a Polish rather than a Russian Jew; but this naive dictum is his unwitting tribute to the Russian revolution.

Mordehai Namir, the Secretary General of Histadruth, when asked about the guiding organization-principle of Histadruth, answers with unshakeable confidence:

'The governing principle here is democratic centralism - don't you know it?'

Democratic centralism, in the strict sense is, of course, not a Russian or Bolshevik invention - it came to Russian and the Bolsheviks from Western Europe. But it has come to Israel and Histadruth from Russia.

{But the Bolshevik leaders were non-theistic Jews}

{p. 99} The kibbutz, the rural commune, is the epitome of Israeli egalitarianism. It is also the most important feature of Israel's moral and intellectual landscape. The kibbutz is an indirect descendant of an idea of the Russian Narodniks or Populists; and it is a arodnik vision of rural socialism that seems to have materialized in the Jewish oases scattered over the former Arabian desert.

{p. 100} In Russia, under the New Economic Policy, Lenin's government encouraged a handful of idealistic peasants and party intellectuals to form voluntary, experimental rural communes which were cherished as 'laboratories of the future' and which should not be confused with the collective farms of the Stalin era. The new kibbutzim in Israel were modelled on those early Russian communes. They were built by boys and girls who left their parental homes, and enlisted in radical Zionist socialist organizations, like Hashomer Hatair, not in order to fight class struggles but in order to drain the marshes of the Emek and of Huleh and to cover the slopes of Carmel and Samaria with the green of vineyards and orchards.

Sociologically, the kibbutz is a unique institution. Its antecedents go back even further than to the old Russian Populism. They may be found in Fourier's blueprints of the phalensteres, in Robert Owen's co-operative experiments, and in other brilliantly erratic schemes of the classical age of Utopian socialism. Like the Utopian socialists, the founders of the kibbutz hoped to achieve socialism by personal example rather than by any systematic revolutionary overthrow of established society - and, incidentally, no established society existed in the Palestine desert. ...

{Wrong: the Terra Nullius lie expressed in "a people without a land for a land without a people"}

He who has not seen the kibbutz can hardly imagine the boldness and originality of the idea and of its execution. A

{p. 101} kibbutz has usually several hundred members, living in small flats which are sometimes very aesthetically built and furnished. Opposite rows of white bungalows surrounded by flower beds are the common dining rooms, libraries, schools, the medical point and other buildings of public utility, with workshops and farmsheds on the fringes of the settlement. The division of labour among kibbutz members is voluntary; and it grows more and more elaborate with progress in agricultural technology. In some kibbutzim there are auxiliary factories of considerable size. Working hours are nine for members under fifty, four for older ones. If a member shows artistic or scientific inclinations, the board of the commune may shorten his working hours on the farm, or give him a Sabbatical year.

Rewards in kind are the same for all. Food, clothing, furniture, medical supplies, cigarettes, books (even paintings or artistic reproductions) are all distributed from a common pool - 'to each according to his needs'. Every member gets a few pounds of pocket money. The standard of living of a kibbutz depends on the size of the common pool, i.e. on wealth accumulated over the years, on productivity of current work, and on the profit made by the marketing organization which sells the surpluses of production to outsiders.

The communist principle has been boldly extended to the education of children, who are brought up within the kibbutz but live in their own quarters and spend with their parents only a couple of leisure hours in the evening. I have noticed that members of the kibbutz are so used to the communal upbringing of the children that in quite a natural, unaffected manner they speak of all the children in their kibbutz as they speak of their own children.

{p. 102} The kibbutz is in some ways a combination of the scout camp and the Benedictine monastery, brightened up by the lack of coercive discipline and by ease and purposefulness of human relations. The members of the kibbutz have every reason to be proud of their morale and they are quite conscious of it. They tell you that during the war the Soviet diplomatic envoy in Israel and his staff visited many kibbutzim trying to see how they compared with Soviet collective farms. Not unnaturally the comparison worked against the Soviet kolkhoy, which had depended on a backward, sluggish, and intimidated muhik, whereas the kibbutzim had been built by the self-sacrifice and courage of idealistic intellectuals and workers. In one kibbutz, having inspected the modern dairy, the school, the farm library (composed of what used to be the libraries of twenty German university professors), the dramatic circle, and so on, the Soviet envoy asked to be shown the kibbutz prison.

'We have no prison here,' was the reply.

'Impossible!' the diplomat exclaimed, 'How on earh do you deal the criminals or offenders?'

The kibbutz members tried to explain that so far they had not had to deal with any offence grave enough to call for such punishment; and that this was only natural: members were selected with the utmost care; they were men and women of high socialist morality; the discontented were free to leave; and in extreme cases the kibbutz could expel unsuitable members. That particular kibbutz was dominated by the pro-Stalinist Mapam party; but the Soviet envoy refused to believe what he was told:

'Surely', said he, 'a community of several hundred people cannot do without a jail!' ...

{the difference might be, that Communism was forced on the Russians, but many Jews chose it because it fitted in with their own ideas}

{p. 103} However, only about seventy thousand people, not more than five per cent of Israel's population, live in kibbutzim. These are Israel's Pilgrim Fathers. Their influence is much greater than their numbers. In the towns you meet many people who have belonged to a kibbutz at one time or another and who still respond to its idealistic appeal; and many town dwellers are anxious to send their children to kibbutz schools famous for ultra-modern educational methods. ...

The kibbutz is still Israel's moral power station, but for some time now it has been in the throes of a crisis. It has

{p. 104} been overshadowed by the newly fledged State and swamped by the influx of new immigrants. ...

'We wish to earn our own money, to put aside some savings. We believe in property - not for us your common ownership!' say some.

'We do not want', say others, 'to eat in public dining rooms all our lives and to have our children separated from us.'


(2) Isaac Deutscher, The Great Purges, edited by Tamara Deutscher (Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1984).

{p. 6} Preface {by Tamara Deutscher}

This book narrates - in authentic words and pictures - the horrifying story of what Trotsky called "the greatest forgery in the world's political history". Throughout the momentous decade of the 1930s the duel between Stalin and Trotsky occupied the centre of the Soviet political scene. Stalin harnessed the immense resources of power and propaganda of his state into the struggle against Trotskyism. He carried his anti-Trotsky campaign into every sphere of thought and activity both within the borders of the Soviet Union and outside it, among the communist confraternity abroad. The campaign reached its climax in 1936-38 when the world was treated to the macabre spectacle of the Moscow Trials, of which Stalin was the author, stage manager, producer, and prompter though he never appeared in court. The chief defendant, Trotsky, was 'tried' in absentia.

Deutscher explores the parallels and precedents of post-revolutionary purges in other epochs and other countries: after the European Protestant upheaval; in Cromwell's England; in the Great French Revolution. What made the Moscow spectacle so exceptionally hallucinatory in its sadism and masochism was the depth of self-humiliation into which the twentieth century tyrant hurled his broken adversaries denying them all possibility to defend their honour and die in dignity.

Nearly all the leaders of the October revolution, all members of Lenin's Politbureau, most commanders of the Red Army, many outstanding scientists and writers were denounced as terrorists, murderers, and wreckers, as foreign spies and traitors, and executed. The drama rose to its bizarre climax with Vyshinsky, the Prosecutor General, bellowing his fantastic indictment, and the defendants - all heroic revolutionaries - making their blood chilling 'confessions' and declaring themselves

{p. 7} guilty of monstrous crimes they could not have committed. "In presenting these scenes", said Deutscher, "I had to reconstruct a nightmare". At the time of the Purges only one significant attempt to expose Stalin's frame-ups was made. This was the so-called Counter-trial under the chairmanship of John Dewey, held in Mexico City in 1937. The chief witness was Leon Trotsky who at the Moscow trials had been the chief defendant. The verdict of the Dewey Commission was an authoritative and unambiguous 'not guilty'. "Be it even over our bleaching bones, the truth will triumph" - thus Trotsky ended his refutation of Stalin's forgeries. Three years later, only a few streets away from the house where the Commission had held its sessions and these words were spoken, Stalin's agent drove an ice-pick into Trotsky's skull.

In Deutscher's historical documentary, the hangmen and the victims, Stalin and Vyshinsky on the one hand, and Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Bukharin on the other, are the main actors. They as well as all the other dramatis personae speak with their authentic voices: all their utterances are taken from official records and public pronouncements, from archives and eye-witness accounts. The narrator intervenes only in order to make the context of the scenes and the background intelligible.

The authentic visual material which David King has been assembling for many years, adds another dimension to the written text and effectively illustrates the haunting quality of the historic drama.

Tamara Deutscher, May 1984 {Trotsky's widow}

The text was originally written for the Home Service of the BBC, at the initiative of the late Lawrence Gilliam, head of Features Department, and transmitted twice in the course of 1965. It was also transmitted in Germany, Sweden and the USA.

{the remainder of the book is by Isaac Deutscher}

{p. 8} The most shocking of all the monstrosities of Stalin's government were the Great Purges, when an immense wave of terror swept the U.S.S.R., and they culminated in the Moscow trials of 1936-8. ...

There are some parallels in the histories of other countries. Quite apart from the terror of the Holy Inquisition, which was different in character, each of the great revolutions of modern times - the European Protestant upheaval, the English Puritan revolution and the great French revolution - had its own version of the purges.

In Germany the Reformation, being both a religious and a social upheaval, opened an epoch of bourgeois revolution and peasant war. As he formed his party, Luther at first included in it the most radical and heretical elements. As Friedrich Engels put it:

Engels: {quote} When in 1517 the opposition against the dogma and the organization of the Catholic Church was first raised by Luther, it still had no definite character ... it did not exclude any trend of opinion which went further. It could not do so because the first moment of the struggle demanded that all opposing elements be united, the most aggressive revolutionary energy be utilized, and the totality of the existing heresies fighting the Catholic orthodoxy be represented ... Luther's sturdy peasant nature asserted itself in the stormiest fashion in the first period of his activities. {endquote}

Luther: {quote} If the raging madness (of the Roman churchmen) were to continue, it seems to me no better counsel and remedy could be found against it than that kings and princes sally forth, arm themselves, attack those evil people who have poisoned the entire world and once and for all make an end to this game, with arms not with words ... Why do we not seize, with arms in hand, all those evil teachers of perdition, those Popes, Bishops, Cardinals and the entire crew of Roman Sodom? Why do we not wash our hands in their blood? {endquote}

Luther's call raised men of all classes to their feet, the bourgeoisie, the lower nobility, the craftsmen, the peasants and even the princes. With this multiplicity of social forces arrayed behind it, the camp of the Reformation was inevitably divided. With his translation of the Bible, Luther put a weapon in the hands of the revolutionary heretics among the peasants and the plebeian masses - the Anabaptists and the other sects, who found their leaders in Thomas Munzer, Nikolas Storch, Ulrich Schmid and other preachers of the Millennium. Even before Luther, Munzer, who established himself as a preacher at Alstedt in Thuringia, eliminated Latin from his church services and introduced other reforms which anticipated the most extreme forms of Protestantism. As this revolution was taking place in religious forms, the theological argument dominated all its debates. Engels says of Munzer:

Engels: {quote} Under the cloak of Christian forms, he preached a kind of pantheism, which curiously resembles the modern speculative mode of contemplation, and at times even approached atheism. {endquote}

{p. 11} ... It goes without saying that the Lutheran princes, nobility and bourgeoisie were terrified by the peasant revolt in the country and the rising of all plebeian elements in the towns. Luther himself, after a period of hesitation, turned against the peasants, against Munzer and other radical heretics. The Reformation had to be purged of its extreme elements, just as some of the modern revolutions were to be purged later. And the bitter invective and the violent language of the purges presently resounded in the Lutheran camp. This is how Luther called all his adherents to struggle 'against the murderers and plundering hordes of the peasants'.

Luther: {quote} They should be broken to pieces, strangled and stabbed, secretly and openly by everybody who can do it, and be mindful that there cannot be anything more poisonous, more harmful, more devilish than a rebellious person who has to be killed just as one must kill a mad dog ... strike, strangle ... here whoever may be able to ... {endquote}

This call, 'Shoot the mad dogs!', will be heard in centuries to come in English, French and Russian, in all the great purges. It sums up the emotional intensity, the fanaticism and the fury with which Luther, Cromwell, Robespierre and Stalin, each in his own way, were suppressing the opponents in their own camn. This is Luther again, speaking in May 1529 about the insurgent peasants:

Luther: {quote} We must pray for them that they obey. Where they do not there should not be much mercy. Let the guns roar among them, or else they will make it a thousand times worse. {endquote}

And the guns roared. There is no need to recount here the vicissitudes of the peasant war, which are well known. The stakes were high, although Munzer's revolutionary party formed a small minority even among the great mass of the rebellious peasants. Marx and Engels spoke of Munzer's 'brilliant anticipation' of modern communism.

Engels: {quote} By the kingdom of God (which he preached) Munzer understood nothing other than a state of society without class differences, without private property, without any more state powers opposed to the members of society. All existing authorities, as far as they did not submit and join the revolution, must be overthrown, all work and all property must be shared in common, and complete equality must be introduced. A union of the people was to be organized to realize this programme, not only throughout Germany, but throughout the entire Christian world ... {endquote}

Unlike the purges in the French and the Russian revolutions, the purges of the Reformation, similar in this respect to the purges of the Puritan English revolution, took the form not of court trials, but of pitched battles. The peasant rebellions were drowned in blood all over Western and South-Western Germany. Of the 8,000 peasants alone who were with Munzer in his last battle at Schlachtberg 5,000 were slaughtered.

Engels: {quote} Munzer, wounded in the head, was discovered in a house and captured ... He was put on the rack in the presence of the princes, and then decapitated. He went to his death with the same courage with which he had lived. He was at the most twenty-eight when he was executed. Pfeifer was also executed and besides him a great number of others. {endquote}

Historians may argue to what an extent these purges can really be considered as precedents to the purges in modern revolutions. If we describe as purges the bloody inner struggle within the party of the revolution, can Luther and Munzer be said to have belonged to the same party? Engels, for instance, treats them as representatives of two diferent parties, each leading different social forces. He speaks of Luther's party as the party of reform and treats only Munzer as the head and the ideologue of the party of a premature and doomed revolution. But the fact remains that at the beginning of the Reformation all these forces stood together, if only for a short time, and Luther and Munzer took the same direction, even if Munzer was at times ahead of Luther. It may also be argued that, just as the purges in the French and the Russian revolutions caused confusion, demoralization and a decline of moral energy in the

{p. 12} party of the revolution, so the peasant war and the Lutheran heresy-hunt brought about an inner paralysis and a stagnation in the Reformation. And it was to take about three centuries before German radical historians began to rehabilitate Thomas Munzer and the other victims of the purges of the German Rerormation. It seems that a closer parallel to the modern purges may be found in the English Puritan revolution, although the only event which the textbooks describe as a purge is the famous Colonel Pride's purge. It occurred in 1648, shortly before the trial and execution of Charles 1. The King's enemies were clamouring for the overthrow of the monarch; but in the House of Commons the Presbyterians, the moderates of the Puritan revolution, still commanded a majority; and they were anxious to save Charles. Cromwell had to break or disperse the Presbyterian majority before he could destroy the King and proclaim the Commonwealth. On 6 December 1648, Colonel Pride, one of Cromwell's soldiers, stood at the door of the House of Commons and prevented 140 M.P.s from entering the House - his soldiers dragged many of them away into custody. Cromwell and Fairfax behaved as if they had nothing to do with that act of violence; but Colonel Pride paved the way for Cromwell's ascendancy.

Pride's Purge is not really comparable with any of the Great Purges, in the sense that the term has now acquired, although it was a crucial act of violence. The Great Purges occur at a different phase of the revolution and in a special context. Each of the great modern revolutions, the Puritan, the Jacobin and the Bolshevik, began against the background of the multi-party system, or at least of an open contest between the various political parties. As the events unfolded, the extreme party, the party of the revolution, destroyed all other parties, conservatives and moderates alike, and established its own exclusive rule, or, as we say now, the single-party system. Cromwell, Robespierre and Lenin did this. No sooner, however, is the single-party system established than a new struggle begins within the single party - and it is to this phase that the Great Purges belong. At the root of the new struggle lies the insecurity of the revolutionary party - its fear of counter-revolutionary contradiction, controversy and opposition. Having crushed all other parties, the new rulers find that they have not yet eliminated contradiction and opposition. Among their own followers, various factions make their appearance and are soon at loggerheads with each other. One faction holds that the revolution has gone too far; another that it has not gone far enough. Some, weary of the continuous upheaval, are anxious to bring revolutionary violence to a halt; others, disillusioned with the meagre results of the upheaval, wish it to go on. The single party is in danger of splitting into several parties; and to forestall this, its leader seeks to reduce its various factions to silence.

The Great Purges, therefore, are not incidents in the struggle between the party of the revolution and its conservative and moderate enemies. The Great Purges affect the revolutionary party itself, and result from its internal struggles. They lead to the suppression, or rather the self-suppression, of the revolutionary party; they replace the rule of the single party with the rule of a single leader.

A closer parallel to the Great Purges is found in Cromwell's suppression of the radical agitators in his Model Army, of the Levellers, the True Levellers, the Diggers, the Fifth Monarchy Men and their like. These groups and sects were of the flesh and blood of Puritanism. They had been Cromwell's most energetic and devoted followers. They had formed the left wing of the revolutionary party. They were the Puritan radicals and ultra-radicals. Over three centuries ago, they fought for a general and equal franchise; some of them already dreamed of a society of equals. No wonder they were disenchanted with Cromwell's Commonwealth, especially when they saw Cromwell spring to the defence of property and of privilege, establishing his own persona! rule and becoming England's uncrowned monarch. At once they turned against him and vehemently denounced him. 'Is this what we have fought for?' the cry occurs after every revolution. Barely a month after the execution of Charles I, John Lilburne came forward with his pamphlet, England's New Chains Discovered: An Impeachment of High lTreason Against Oliver Cromwell. The radical agitators in the Model Army, the Levellers and the True Levellers echoed Lilburne's denunciation: 'The poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he ... Unless we that are poor have some part of the land to live upon freely as well as the gentry, it cannot be a free commonwealth ... We are English soldiers engaged for the freedom of England and not outlandish mercenaries to butcher these people, to serve the pernicious ends of ambition and will or any person under Heaven.' In the Council of State, Cromwell pounded the table with his fist, and thus addressed Bradshaw (Chairman of the Council and Milton's brother-in-law):

Cromwell: {quote} I tell you, Sir, there is no other way to deal with these men, the Agitators, but to break them into pieces. {endquote}

John Lilburne spent the rest of his life in the Tower of London, in exile in Holland, on the island of Jersey and, finally, within the walls of Dover Castle.

{p. 13} Other rebels were imprisoned, exiled or executed.

Yet in one essential respect these Cromwellian purges differed from those of the Jacobins and Bolsheviks. The Puritan Revolution, for all its flaming religious passion, was military in character and methods. Its main agent was the army, not some civilian political party. Consequently, the Cromwellian purges took the form of pitched battles rather than of monster trials. The Levellers and radical agitators exercised considerable influence upon large sections of the New Model Army. Entire regiments rose in arms against Cromwell, marched from Salisbury to Abingdon, captured Northampton and stirred up various other counties. Cromwell and Fairfax suppressed these revolts by force of arms. Some of the defeated Levellers recanted and then served Cromwell.

On 7 June 1649, Cromwell and Fairfax celebrated their triumph over the Levellers. At a splendid banquet at the Grocel's Hall, the City of London hailed them as the saviours of property. Yet the ideas of the Levellers continued to haunt England; and five years after that celebration, when opening the first Parliament of the Protectorate, Cromwell thus inveighed against those in England who were longing for the abolition of class distinctions:

Cromwell: {quote} A noble man, a gentleman, a yeoman, 'the distinction of these': that is a good interest of the Nation, and a great one! The 'natural' Magistracy of the Nation was it not almost trampled under foot, under despite and contempt, by men of Levelling principles? I beseech you, for the orders of men and ranks of men, did not that Levelling principle tend to the reducing of all to all equality? Did it 'consciously' think to do so; or did it 'only unconsciously' practise towards that for property and interest? At all events, what was the purport of it but to make the Tenant as liberal a fortune as the Landlord? And that the thing did 'and might well' extend far, is manifest; because it was a pleasing voice to all Poor Men, and truly not unwelcome to all Bad Men. {endquote}

A few months later, at the dissolution of Parliament, Cromwell once again vented his fear and detestation of these premature egalitarians.

Cromwell: {quote} It is some satisfaction if a Commonwealth must perish, that it perish by men and not by the hands of persons differing little from beasts! That if it must needs suffer, it should rather suffer from rich men than from poor men, who, as Solomon says, 'when they oppress leave nothing behind them, but are a sweeping rain'. {endquote}

Neverheless, purges did not loom in the English revolution as large as they did in the French and the Russian. The Levellers had few, if any, eminent political leaders; they were the rank and file of the revolutionary party. It was therefore relatively easy for Cromwell to suppress them. Robespierre and Stalin had a far more difficult job - each of them had to contend with far more dangerous and influential opponents. The Levellers who rose against Cromwell were ensigns, corporals, privates. Carlyle, who as a historian sides with Cromwell, had this to say of them:

Carlyle: {quote} To die the Leveller Corporals; strong they after their sort, for the Liberties of England; resolute to the very death. Misguided Corporals! But history will not refuse these poor Corporals her tributary sigh. {endquote}

History indeed has not refused her tributary sigh to these victims of Cromwell's purges. Generations of British socialists and democrats have honoured them as the fore-runners and martyrs of modern democracy and socialism.

Let us now turn to the epurations of the great French revolution. The scene is Paris; the time, early spring 1794. Louis XV and Marie Antoinette have been executed. France is an embattled Republic, in the throes of the civil war, struggling against British, Prussian and Austrian intervention. The Jacobin Party, led by Robespierre, Danton and Saint-Just, dominates the Revolutionary Convention. This is the moment of the Jacobins' supreme triumph. They have crushed all the parties that were opposed to the proclamation of the Republic. But they have already lost Marat, their chief leader, who was assassinated by Charlotte Corday; and at the very moment of their triumph they fall out among themselves. Three factions are then formed within the Jacobin party: the Dantonists, followers of Danton, stand on the right; Robespierre and Saint-Just lead the men of the middle, the Centre faction; while to the left there are the Hebertists, followers of Hebert, the radicals and ultra-radicals, the enrages and the men of the Commune of Paris.

Danton and his friends are already worried by the excesses of revolution; they seek to reassure the new bourgeoisie and to end or mitigate the reign of terror. Robespierre's men, backed by the Hebertists and the Commune of Paris, do not think that the time has come to call a halt to revolution and terror - they would rather press ahead with both. For a time Danton and his friends try to keep in step with the rest of the party; but before the end of the year 1793, Danton begins to attack the Hebertists, who are reputed to be atheists. This is how Danton spoke at the Convention:

Danton: {quote} Let us have no prepossessions. If we do not honour the priest of error and the priest of fanaticism neither let us honour the priest of disbelief. We wish to serve the people. I demand that anti-religious masquerades in the Convention shall cease. {endquote}

On the same day, Danton spoke about one of the anti-Republican plots, a real or imaginary plot said to be directed from England and inspired or financed by Pitt's government. The Convention had before it at this moment a motion calling for death sentences on the conspirators. Danton supported the motion but very ambiguously.

Danton: {quote} The Committee should prepare a report about what is called this foreign-inspired conspiracy. Our people clamoured for a Terror, and our people were right. But the people want this Terror to fulfil its real purpose, they want it directed against the aristocrats, the egoists, the conspirators and traitors. The time has not yet come to show clemency. This is still a time for national inflexibility and vengeance. {endquote}

At this point the Hebertists and other Left Jacobins already charge Danton with lukewarmness, and indulgence to the enemies of the Republic.

Danton: {quote} I wish to justify myself in the eyes of the people, who should not find it hard to recognize my innocence and my love of liberty. Have I really changed so much? Has my face, the face of a free man, suddenly changed its appearance? Am I no longer he whom our enemies have persecuted above all others?

{p. 23} Danton:

{p. 24} I have savoured life. Now it is time to sleep.

Lamartine thus describes the scene of Danton's execution:

Lamartine: {quote} Danton was the last to mount the scaffold. Never had he mounted a rostrum more superbly and impressively. He placed himself squarely on the scaffold. He seemed to take the measure of it, as if it were his pedestal. He eyed - almost with pity - those who stood to the right and left of him. Look at me well, his posture seemed to tell them - for you will never see my like. For a moment, a natural emotion dissolved his pride. He remembered his young wife, his eyes moistened, and he cried out: Oh, my beloved, shall see you no more! Then, as if reproaching himself, he said loudly: Allons, Danton, point de Jaiblesse. Come now, Danton, no weakness. Turning to the executioner, he said in a commanding voice:

Danton: You will show my head to the people, will you not? It is well worth showing.

Lamartine: His head fell. The executioner lifted it, put it into a basket and walked with it around the scaffold. The crowd applauded. {endquote}

With the destruction of both the Left and the Right factions, the Hebertists and the Dantonists, the Jacobin party was reduced to a rump. Robespierre, Saint-Just and Couton exercised full power and hoped to consolidate it. Yet Paris was full of their enemies, full of the wreckage of the old aristocracy, the hidden Legitimistic royalists, and the followers of the Duke of Orleans; and there were the cowed and silent friends of the Girondists and of the Dantonists and Hebertists ... the social turmoil was unabated. The upstarts and the nouveau riches of Paris were impatient with the austerities of Robespierre's rule; and the poor were weary of starvation and terror.

Robespierre's government was left at the heart of a void; and a plot, the plot of the so-called Thermidorians, was being hatched in the Convention. On 9th Thermidor, according to the revolutionary calendar, that is on 27 July 1794, less than four months after Danton's execution, Robespierre and his government were overthrown. They faced the same accusations with which they had overwhelmed the Hebertists and the Dantonists; and they were given not the slightest chance to defend themselves. Saint-Just stood at the rostrum of the Convention for four hours, with the manuscript of his last speech in his hands - the uproar from the floor did not allow him to speak. Silent, erect and courageous, he gazed haughtily at his enemies. On the next day he made his last journey, the journey to the guillotine. By Saint-Just's side in the tumbril lay Robespierre, his jaw broken, his head covered with blood. Among the last words penned by Saint-Just are these:

Saint-Just: {quote} What have we made of human reason? It would be better to flee into a desert, to find independence there, or to make friends of the wild beasts. It is better to forsake a world in which no strength is left either in crime or in virtue, in which nothing remains but dismay and contempt. {endquote}

Thus fell the Jacobin party; and its overthrow paved the way for the Directory, the Consulate and the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Another hundred and ten years passed; Brussels and London witnessed an important preliminary to the Russian revolution of the twentieth century. In these two capital cities, a Congress of the small and clandestine Russian Social Democratic Party assembled in July 1903. At the Congress a split occurred between two factions, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. That party had been born which was destined to carry out the October revolution of 1917. Its leader was Lenin. Not many of the participants of the Congress were aware of the momentous significance of the event. But a few were; and in their thoughts, memories of the great French revolution were mingled with foreboding. George Plekhanov, founder of Russian Marxism, philosopher, critic and political leader, was the most celebrated personality at the Congress. Lenin modestly considered himself to be his disciple. At the moment of the schism, Plekhanov uneasily supported Lenin. But, watching Lenin and listening to his speeches, he remarked wistfully:

Plekhanov: {quote} It is of such stuff that the Robespierres of the world are made. {endquote}

One of the youngest yet most prominent actors at the Congress was twenty-three-

{p. 30} year-old Leon Trotsky. He joined the Mensheviks and vehemently inveighed against Lenin.

Trotsky: {quote} Like a new Robespierre, Lenin is trying to transform the modest Council of our party into an omnipotent Committee of Public Safety. Comrades, I do not really intend to compare Lenin with Robespierre. The leader of the Bolsheviks is a mere parody of Robespierre, whom he resembles no more than vulgar farce may resemble great historic tragedy. If we were to adopt Lenin's ideas about our party, the result would be that the party organization, the caucus, would substitute itself for the organization; until finally, a single dictator substituted himself for the Central Committee. {endquote}

Lenin was not at all embarrassed by these comparisons and accusations. He replied:

Lenin: {quote} A revolutionary social democrat is, and must be, a Jacobin; but one who is inseparably linked with the organization of the working class, and who is conscious of its class interests. {endquote}

Against this, Trotsky argued that a Marxist, that is a social democrat or communist, cannot be and must not be a Jacobin.

Trotsky: {quote} Robespierre and his friends had their own metaphysical idea of ruth, their Verite; but they did not believe that their Verite could win the hearts and minds of the people. They looked around them with morbid suspicion; they saw enemies creeping out of every cranny. Therefore, the Jacobins drew a sharp distinction between themselves and the rest of the world. They drew it with the blade of the guillotine. They spared no human hecatombs to build the pedestal for their Truth. The counterpart of their absolute faith in a metaphysical idea was their absolute distrust of living people. Comrades, the social democrat and the Jacobin stand for different and even opposite worlds, doctrines, tactics, mentalities. The Jacobins were utopian dreamers; we aspire to express the true, the objective, trend of history. They were idealists; we are materialists. They were rationalists; we are dialeclicians. They chopped off heads; we seek to enlighten them. A Jacobin tribunal would have tried the whole international labour movement on the charge of moderation. Marx's lion head would have been the first to roll beneath the guillotine. Maximilien Robespierre used to say: I know only two parties, the good and the evil citizens. This aphorism is engraved on the heart of Maximilien Lenin. Lenin's malicious and morally repulsive suspicion is a downright caricature of the tragic Jacobin intolerance. {endquote}

Yet fourteen years later, in 1917, Trotsky joined hands with Lenin, and together they led the Bolshevik Party in the October revolution. But soon thereafter the party was deeply divided. This was late in the First World War, in which Tsarist Russia had been Britain's and France's ally. Should Bolshevik Russia go on fighting, or should she contract out of the war and sign a separate peace with Germany? That was the question. There was a peace faction and a war faction - the former headed by Lenin, the latter by Bukharin. Trotsky stood between the two factions and coined the famous phrase: Neither war nor peace!

So vehement grew the inner-party struggle that all Bolshevik leaders became deeply apprehensive. They began to wonder whether some inexorable logic of revolution was not already driving them along the road the Jacobins had travelled, the road at the end of which were the Great Purges and the Thermidorian coup d'etat. Early in 1918, at a meeting of the Politbureau, there occurred this hitherto unrecorded episode: Bukharin had come to the meeting with what he called the Draft of an Anti-Thermidorian Catechism. This consisted of rules and regulations designed to restrain inner party controversy and to prevent it from degenerating into a fratricidal struggle. Bukharin proposed that his Anti-Thermidorian Catechism should be widely circulated among party members. All those present at the meeting read the document and waited for Lenin to express his opinion. After a moment of reflection Lenin spoke:

Lenin: {quote} Comrades, I see no need to circulate this among party members. I do not see what purpose any such catechism may serve. I trust we shall never seek to settle our inner-party differences in a Jacobin manner. But if events were ever to drive us that way, if any of us were ever to be tempted to settle our differences by means of the guillotine, then God have mercy on us, for no anti-Thermidorian catechism will help us then. It is a childish idea, Nikolai Ivanovich, that we could stop or forestall so fatal a development with the help of a sheet of paper like this. {endquote}

{Notice Lenin's referral to "God"; Gorbachev similarly mouthed a Russian proverb "Christ has risen"}

The incident reveals how very early and with what inward shudders - the Bolshevik leaders were thinking it possible that the Russian revolution might fall into the pattern of the Great Purge. True, Bukharin's Anti-Thermidorian Catechism never saw the light - and there was yet no need for it.

{p. 34} While Lenin stood at the head of the party, up to the yeart 1923, the Bolsheviks enjoyed full freedom of inner-party debate; and Lenin was not the man to victimize any of his numerous inner-party critics and opponents.

In January 1924 Lenin died; and immediately there was bitter strife and controversy about who should succeed him. The troika or triumvirate - Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev - were determined to exclude Trotsky from the succession. At this stage, oddly enough, Zinoviev rather than Stalin came forward as Trotsky's worst enemy, demanding his expulsion from the party: Stalin was against expulsion. Some time laer, after he had fallen out with Zinoviev and Kamenev, Stalin said:

Stalin: {quote} Comrades, our differences with Zinoviev and Kamenev began with the question: What is to be done with Trotsky'? That was towards the end of 1924. Zinoviev and his friends urged us to expel Trotsky from the party. But we, that is the majority of the Central Committee, we did not agree with this. (APPLAUSE) After some altercation, we persuaded Zinoviev and his friends to withdraw this demand. But some time later, at a full session of the Central Committee, Zinoviev and Kamenev again demanded of us that we should at once expel Trotsky from the party. And again we refused. We refused because we thought that such chopping-off of heads might become very dangerous. Comrades, this method of chopping off and blood-letting - and, mind you, Zinoviev and Kamenev cried out for Trotsky's blood - this method is dangerous and contagious. Today they chop off one head, tomorrow another and the day after tomorrow still another - who in the end will be left with us in the party'? {endquote}

What moved Stalin, of all people, to utter this warning? In Moscow, a story went round that, shortly after Lenin's death, the Bolshevik chiefs met and took a secret oath never to fight each other as the Jacobins did and never to guillotine each other. Whether the story was true or not, it is a fact that for a long time Lenin's successors felt bound by the rule that no party member should ever be punished with death for any political offence. The G.P.U., the political police, were not allowed to lay hands on any communist unless the Central Committee authorized them to do so.

And so, for years, the inner-party struggle went on bloodlessly, even though its vehemence grew continuously. The Jacobin ghosts haunted the Bolsheviks. Thus the inner Bolshevik struggles dragged on for thirteen or fourteen years, from 1923 till 1936, before Stalin put the guillotine in action. Note that all the struggles within the Jacobin party were fought out within a few months only.

Yet even in the middle of the 1920s the division in the Bolshevik Party already looked ominously like those in the Jacobin party. There was the Left opposition led by Trotsky, with ultraradical groups such as the Workers' Opposition in the background; the Right, led by Bukharin and Rykov; and the Centre, with Stalin at its head. In the summer of 1927 Stalin attacked Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev - the last two had in the meantime become Trotsky's allies - and arraigned them before the Central Control Commission, the party's supreme tribunal. Now it was Stalin who demanded that Trotsky and his friends should be expelled from the Central Committee. On 24 July Trotsky was replying to Stalin's charges. This was a tense day for Red Moscow. There was much commotion in the lobbies of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission, for the party tribunal was still reluctant to act on Stalin's prompting. A veteran Bolshevik, Solz, was to preside over the tribunal. Just before the opening of the proceedings he talked with Vorobiev, one of Trotsky's followers.

Solz: {quote} Do you know what the opposition's latest Manifesto amounts to? Do you know, Vorobiev, what this leads to? Surely you know the history of the French revolution? And you should remember what this kind of action led to in Paris - to arrests and to the guillotine!

Vorobiev (VERY ASSURED): {quote} Is it you intention then, comrade Solz, is it you intention to arrest and to guillotine us members of the opposition? {endquote}

Solz: {quote} But, Vorobiev, this does not depend on our intentions. We shall be sorry if things come to this pass; but they may and they will come to this, if you go on behaving as you do. Do you suppose that Robespierre was not sorry for Danton when he sent him to the guillotine? And yet he did it; and then Robespierre had to go himself. Do you think he was not sorry? But he had do it - he had to. {endquote}

When Trotsky came forward to make his plea, he referred to that conversation between Solz and Vorobiev. {endquote}

Trotsky: {quote} In my opinion, comrade Solz was right to draw this analogy with the French revolution. Today we must at costs brush up our knowledge of the great French revolution. During that revolution, many were guillotined. We too had many people brought before the firing squad. But there were two distinct chapters in the history of the French revolution, the chapter of its rise and the chapter of its decline. We must understand this. When the line went like this, upwards, the French Jacobins, the Bolsheviks of that age, guillotined the Royalists and the Girondins. We had a similar great chapter. It was when we Oppositionists, together with you, shot the White Guards and exiled our Girondins, the Mensheviks. But then there began in France that other chapter, when the Thermidorians began shooting the Left Jacobins - I would like comrade Solz to think over this analogy, to think it through to the end, and to give himself the answer to following question: which chapter the revolution is this - that of ascent, or that of decline - in which chapter is Solz

{p. 47} preparing to have us shot? {endquote}

{p. 69} Only one man, the banished Trotsky, continued to challenge Stalin. From his various places of exile in Turkey, France and Norway, he ceaselessly attacked the Moscow dictator. His voice did not penetrate to the masses in Russia; but it reached the men of the Bolshevik hierarchy - the Trotskyists, Zinovievists, Bukharinists and even the old Stalinist cadres, who listened intently to every word uttered by the founder of the Red Army. In Bolshevik eyes, Trotsky still represented the sole alternative to Stalin and Stalinism; and so the whole Stalinist propaganda machine concentrated immense eftorts upon discrediting him. Trotsky was: 'The spearhead of the world's counter-revolution.' 'A social fascist!' 'Just say, a fascist!' 'A plotter and conspirator against the Soviet Union!' He was indeed the devil, or the anti-Christ, of the Stalinist cult.

Stalin compelled Trotsky's erstwhile friends and followers to join him in exorcizing the devil. Yet the exorcisms were losing their magical power. The U.S.S.R. existed in a state of almost permanent emergency. In 1932 Nadia Alliluyeva, Stalin's wife, committed suicide in protest against the monstrosities of his rule. The oppositionists who had surrendered to Stalin came to regret the surrender; and even in his own entourage there was no lack of malcontents. And so Stalin was becoming afraid not only of Trotskyists, Bukharinists, etc., but even of his own followers, the Stalinists.

The higher he rose, and the more grotesquely he was adulated, the louder grew the murmurs around him, the more numerous was the multitude who had reason to fear and hate him - and whom he feared and hated. Though elevated above the whole Bolshevik Party, it was not without reason that he saw the whole party as one potential coalition against himself. And he had to use every ounce of his strength and cunning to prevent the potential from becoming actual. He had not obtained mastery once and for all. He had to obtain it over and over again. On December 1934, a young communist by the name of Nikolayev assassinated Serge Kirov, the party boss and Governor of Leningrad. The exact circumstances in which this event took place are still obscure. What was known at the time was that the chiefs of the Leningrad G.P.U. had been aware of

{p. 72} Nikolayev's preparations for the attempt and that, either deliberately or negligently, they had allowed him to carry out the coup. ...

The campaign against 'Kirov's assassins' had been running for about twenty months, when suddenly, on 15 August 1936, Moscow announced that a trial of 'the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Centre' was about to open. This was to be the first of the great and infamous Moscow Trials. ...

{p. 94} And how did the world react? The trial of the sixteen took place just after

{p. 95} Hitler's armies had marched into the Rhineland and after Popular Front governments had been formed in France and Spain. The Labour movement and the leftist intelligentsia of the West looked to Stalin as their ally against Hitler. Consequently they were extremely wary of raising any protests against the Moscow purges. Might not Stalin retaliate by breaking up the Popular Fronts, withholding arms from the loyalist forces in Spain, and leaving Western Europe alone to face the Third Reich? And apart from all this, the sombre irrationality of the Moscow trials confused and confounded many. People who might have raised their voices against an infamy they were able to understand were utterly reluctant to protest against - and so to become involved in - a dark and bloody mystery. Stalin was acting on the Hitlerian principle that people usually disbelieve a small lie, but swallow a big one and the bigger the lie the better. The lie of the Moscow trials was so huge, so fantastic and so all-pervading that it was well-nigh unanswerable. It had the quality of something as immovable, as persistent and as powerful as reality itself. It had the reality of a nightmare. Surely, people wondered, Stalin could not have invented all the Trotskyist and Zinovievist crimes and conspiracies. And if he did invent them, why do all the defendants admit their guilt? Few, very few, were those in the West who had any inkling of the techniques of interrogation used by the G.P.U., or of the whole background against which the trials were staged.

{But Deutscher is being coy. Those very techniques were initiated by his heroes, Lenin and Trotsky, and their associates: kronstadt.html. And people in the West were kept ignorant of these techniques by the fellow-traveller press there, in the same way that news of the Jewish identities of the pre-Stalin Bolshevik leadership was suppressed: lenin-trotsky.html}

At this time the Stalinists exercised a strong influence on the intelligentsia in France, Spain, Britain and the United States; and upon these they brought to bear every kind of moral pressure, in order to prevent their lending the slightest support to any protest against the purges. Famous lawyers (among them a British K.C.), professors, authors, trade-union leaders and others vouched for Stalin's and Vyshinsky's integrity and justice. From Moscow, where the flower of Russian literature and art was being exterminated, the voices of Gorky, Sholokhov and Ehrenburg, the best-known Soviet writers, could be heard, as they joined in the chorus that filled the air with the cry: 'Shoot the mad dog!' Western literary celebrities like Theodore Dreiser, Leon Feuchtwanger, Henri Barbusse and Louis Aragon echoed the cry. Even a man like Romain Rolland, whom many regarded as the humanitarian conscience of his generation, defended Stalin's action. Bernard Shaw, who managed to admire both Trotsky and Stalin, expressed his perplexity in these words:

G. B. Shaw: {quote} I have spent nearly three hours in Stalin's presence and observed him with keen curiosity. And I find it just as hard to believe that he is a vulgar gangster as that Trotsky is an assassin. {endquote}

The Trial of the Sixteen set the pattern for all the Moscow trials that were to follow. In January 1937 Pyatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov, Muralov, Serebriakov and others appeared in the dock. All these men, once eminent members of the Trotskyist opposition, had surrendered to Stalin and had made their recantations in 1927. 1928, 1929 and later. Pyatakov, Deputy Commissar of Heavy Industry, had been the moving spirit of Soviet industrialization; Radek was the 'Prince of Soviet Pamphleteers': Sololnikov, a former Soviet Chancellor of the Exchequer and Ambassador in London; Muralov, the ex-Inspector-General of the Soviet Armed Forces: all so on, and so on. The accusations piled up ever more incongruously and incredibly. Vyshinsky spoke of Trotsky's pact with Hitler and with the Emperor of Japan, a pact under which they were to assist him in his struggle against Stalin while he, Trotsky, was working for the military defeat and dismemberment of the Soviet Union, and was organizing industrial sabotage ...

{The booklet Red Symphony contains material it says was obtained by the interrgogation bof Trotsky's leading supporter in Russia, Rakovsky, prior to his trial. It claims that Trotsky's backers - Jewish bankers, not Trotsky himself - indeed partially funded Hitler in the early stages, in order that he bring down Stalin's "National Communism" so that they could restore the real "International Communism", i.e. Trotsky's kind, presumably with Trotsky at the helm. The authenticity of Red Symphony is in doubt, but if genuine it could explain Stalin's decision to have Trotsky killed: red-symphony.html}

{p. 140} Even Trotsky was not always able to protest. The first of the Moscow trials,

{p. 141} the trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev, found him in Norway. The socialist government had received him there with honours and given him refuge. But the same government, intimidated by Stalin's threats, then interned Trotsky, kept him in hermetic isolation, and for many months prevented his answering Stalin's charges. Only after he had found a new refuge in Mexico could Trotsky speak up. He organized a so-called counter-trial. In vain did he seek to associate with the counter-trial any of the communist or socialist parties, groups or any trade unions, or, indeed, any liberal or radical organizations. Few, very few, were those in the West who were prepared to defend Stalin's victims or to treat the Moscow trials as frame-ups. The counter-trial was therefore conducted by a small and not very influential body of men, who formed a special commission of inquiry. Presiding over the Commission was John Dewey, the American philosopher and educationist, the only member of the Commission who spoke with recognized moral authority. The most important part of the counter-trial consisted in the Commission's cross-examination of Trotsky himself. As the American government would not allow Trotsky entry into the United States, the cross-examination took place in Mexico City at the home of Diego Rivera, the famous painter, with whom Trotsky was staying at the time. Here is a description of the scene, by several eyewitnesses:

Eyewitness 1: The atmosphere was tense. There was a police guard outside. Visitors were searched for guns and identified by one of Trotsky's secretaries who was himself armed. The French windows facing the street were covered behind each window there was a barricade of sandbags and brick.

Eyewitness 2: These barricades had been completed the night before.

Eyewitness 3: About fifty people were present during the hearings, among hem photographers and renorters.

Eyewitness 1: The hearings were conducted as in an American court. Dewey had invited the Soviet Embassy, and the Communist Parties of the United States and of Mexico, to send their representatives and take part in the cross-examination. His invitations were ignored or rejected.

Dewey opened the hearings:

Dewey: This Commission is neither a court nor a jury. We are here neither to defend nor to prosecute Leon Trotsky. We are not here to pronounce a verdict. We are an investigating body. Our function is to hear whatever testimony Mr Trotsky may present to us, to cross-examine him and to give the results of our investigation to the full Commission. The Commission of Inquiry was initiated by the American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky. In the United States it has long been customary for public-spirited citizens to organize committees for the purpose of securing fair trials in cases where there was suspicion concerning the impartiality of the court. Such were the Tom Mooney Defense Committee and the Sacco-Vanzett Defense Committee. Membership of such committees does not imply anything more than the belief that the accused is entitled to a fair trial. Twice in their absence both Leon Trotsky and his son Leon Sedov have been declared guilty by the highest tribunal of the Soviet Union. And Trotsky's repeated questions and demands have been ignored. Therefore it became part of the function of this defence committee to initiate the formation of an impartial body before which his side of the case could be heard. The conscience of the world is not as yet satisfied on this historic issue. This world conscience demands that Mr Trotsky be not finally condemned before he has had full opportunity to present whatever evidence is in his possession. If Leon Trotsky is guilty of the acts with which he is charged, no condemnation can be too severe. That he has been condemned without the opportunity to be heard is a matter of utmost concern.

Trotsky's examination began on 10 April 1937, lasted a full week and took up thirteen long sessions. It was so detailed that it is hardly possible to summarize it here. But shortly before the hearings, Trotsky himself gave the gist of his case in a speech he intended to transmit in English to a meeting in New York. Here are the most striking passages of that speech:

Trotsky: Dear Listeners, Comrades and Friends! The theme of my address is the Moscow trial. I will appeal not to your passions, not to your nerves, but to reason. I do not doubt that reason will be found on the side of truth. Moscow resorts to all kinds of measures to force me, the principal accused, to keep silent. Yielding to Moscow's terrible economic pressure, the Norwegian government placed me under lock and key. How lucky it is that the magnanimous hospitality of Mexico has permitted us, my wife and I, to face the new trial, not under imprisonment but in freedom! But all the wheels have again been set in motion to force me once more into silence. Why does Moscow so fear the voice of a single man? Only because I know the truth, the whole truth. Only because I have nothing to hide. Only because I am ready to appear before a public and impartial committee of inquiry, with documents, facts and testimonies in my hands, and to disclose the last detail of the truth. ...


I make the same appeal to Trotsky's supporters: I appeal to reason, not passion. I present solid evidence that the early Soviet Union was set up and controlled by non-theistic Jews: zioncom.html. This means that it was a conspiracy; and Stalin stole that conspiracy back, in the name of the Russian people.

He was cruel, but the cruelty of the system preceded his rule. Trotsky himself boldly defended the use of "terrorist" methods, in the face of criticism by Karl Kautsky: worst.html.

Stalin's deportations to death camps in the arctic wantonly killed many innocent people; but his greatest crime was giving the Jewish Bolsheviks a taste of their own medicine.

(3) Yuri Slezkine on Stalin's Purge

The Jewish Century, by Yuri Slezkine (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2004)

{p. 273} Members of the political elite suffered disproportionately, but they were not the majority of those affected. The Jews, who were not numerous among nonelite victims, were underrepresented in the Great Terror as a whole. In 1937-38, about 1 percent of all Soviet Jews were arrested for political crimes, as compared to 16 percent of all Poles and 30 percent of all Latvians. By early 1939, the proportion of Jews in the Gulag was about 15.7 percent lower than their share of the total Soviet population. The reason for this was the fact that the Jews were not targeted as an ethnic group. None of those arrested during the Great Terror of 1937-38 including Meromskaia's parents, Gaister's relatives, and my grandfather - was arrested as a Jew. The secret police did put together several Jewish-specific cases, but they were all politically (not ethnically) defined. Iudit Roziner-Rabinovich, for example, was arrested during the sweep of "Palestinians," but her interrogator (himself Jewish) was interested in Zionist organizations, not nationality. Samuil Agursky, the great crusader against Zionism, Moyshe Litvakov, his political enemy and fellow leader of the Party's Jewish Section, and Izi Kharik, the Yiddish "proletarian" writer and the author of the poem about the exodus to Moscow, were all arrested as part of the attack against former Bundists (real or imaginary). At the same time, similar campaigns were being waged against the former members of all the other non-Bolshevik parties, including the Socialist Revolutionaries, the Mensheviks, the Ukrainian Borotbists, the Azerbaidjani Mussavatists, and the Armenian Dashnaks among

{p. 274} others. And while Jewish national districts and schools were closed down, all other national districts and schools were closed down too ...

Indeed, Jews were the only large Soviet nationality without its own "native" territory that was not targeted for a purge during the Great Terror. ... And in 1937-38, all diaspora nationalities of the Soviet Union became the subject of special "mass operations" involving quotas of arrests and executions.

{endquote} More at slezkine.html.

(4) Isaac Deutscher, Stalin (Oxford University Press, London, 1949)

Deutscher's claim, below, that political prisoners in the USSR were treated leniently before Stalin is completely contradicted by Sorokin and other early victims: kronstadt.html. Dmitri Volkogonov provides abundant evidence that Lenin and the other early Bolsheviks instituted the harsh measures, in his biographies Lenin and Trotsky.

{p. 358} He {Stalin} appointed Andrei Zhdanov to succeed Kirov as the governor of Leningrad. Zhdanov was a young, capable, and ruthless man, who had purged the Komsomol of deviationists and distinguished himself in arrogant attacks on Tomsky during the fight in the trade unions. Stalin could rely upon him to destroy the hornets' nest in Leningrad. In the spring of 1935 tens of thousands of suspect Bolsheviks and their families were deported from Leningrad to northern Siberia. Multitudes of 'Kirov's assassins', as these deportees were called, from other cities, too, filled prisons and concentration camps.

The treatment of the political prisoners underwent a radical change. Hitherto it had not been different from that accorded to them during Tsarist days. Political offenders had enjoyed certainm privileges and had been allowed to engage in self-education and even in political propaganda. Oppositional memoranda, pamphlets, and periodicals had circulated half freely between prisons and had occasionally been smuggled abroad. Himself an ex-prisoner, Stalin knew well that jails and places of exile were the 'universities' of the revolutionaries. Recent events taught him to take no risks. From now on all political discussion and activity in the prisons and places of exile was to be mercilessly suppressed; and the men of the opposition were by privation and hard labour to be reduced to such a miserable, animal-like existence that they should be incapable of the normal processes of thinking and of formulating their views.


(5) Articles about Deutscher


1929-1972 Hermien van Veen Amsterdam, 2000

Biographical/historical note Born in Chrzan"w, Galicia, Austria-Hungary, in 1907, died in Rome in 1967; journalist, Marxist historian; moved to Cracow in 1923, to Warsaw in 1925; joined the Komunistyczna Partia Polski (KPP) in 1926, member of the Polish section of the International Left Opposition from 1929; expelled from the party in 1932; became supporter of Trotsky and followed the 'entrance-tactic' by joining the Polska Partia Socjalistyczna (PPS) 1935-1937; edited and contributed to many periodicals (most of them illegal and irregular); emigrated to Great Britain in 1939; contributed regularly political commentary on developments in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to The Economist, The Observer, the Tribune and other periodicals; at the same time engaged in historical research; published biographies of Trotsky and Stalin and wrote on cold war issues.


Isaac Deutscher was born in Cracow, Poland, in 1907. A journalist, he joined the Polish Communist Party in 1926. However, he was expelled in 1932 because he was critical of Joseph Stalin.

On the outbreak of the Second World War Deutscher moved to England and began writing for the The Observer. He also became chief European correspondent for the Economist.

Deutscher wrote several books about the Soviet Union including Stalin (1949), Soviet Trade Unions (1950), Russia after Stalin (1953), Trotsky: The Prophet Armed (1954), Heretics and Renegades (1955), Trotsky: The Prophet Unarmed (1959), The Great Contest (1960), Trotsky: The Prophet Outcast (1963) and Ironies of History, Essays on Contemporary Communism (1966). Isaac Deutscher died in London in 1967.

Since his death books published include Lenin's Childhood (1970), The Unfinished Revolution: Russia 1917-1967 (1974), Marxism in Our Time (1974), Soviet Trade Unions (1984), The Great Purges (1984) and Marxism, Wars and Revolutions: Essays from Four Decades (1984).


Comments Created 6/20/1997

Armed Prophets

Brad DeLong Professor of Economics U.C. Berkeley

I was reading Isaac Deutscher's biography of Leon Trotsky, wondering if there is space for a short, potted biography of Trotsky--as someone at the intersection of a number of important strands of twentieth century history: socialism, the fall of Russia into totaliarianism, attempted resistance to the rise of Nazism, trying to understand and deal with the Great Depression--in my Slouching Towards Utopia. I came across the epigraph to Deutscher's biography, a passage from Machiavelli's The Prince (chapter 6):

... there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has far enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new...

It is necessary, therefore, if we desire to discuss this matter thoroughly, to inquire whether these innovators can rely on themselves or have to depend on others: that is to say, whether to consummate their enterprise, have they to use prayers or can they use force? In the first instance they always succeed badly, and never compass anything; but when they can rely on themselves and use force, they are rarely endandered. Hence it is that all armed prophets have conquered, and the unarmed ones have been destroyed. Besides the reasons mentioned, the nature of the people is variable, and whilst it is easy to persuade them, it is difficult to fix them in that persuasion. And thus it is necessary to take such measures that, when they believe no longer, it may be possible to make them believe by force.

If Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, and Romulus had been unarmed they could not have enforced their constitutions for long--as happened in our time to Fra Girolamo Savonarola, who was ruined with his new order of things immediately the multitude believed in him no longer, and he had no means of keeping steadfast those who believed or of making the unbelievers to believer.

Deutscher writes in his preface that one way to understand his book is as a "somewhat ironical commentary" on Machiavelli's passage: "What may be doubted is whether the distinction between the armed prophet and the unarmed one, and the difference between conquest and destruction is always as clear as it seemed to the author of The Prince... [T]he chapter portraying [Trotsky] at the very pinnacle of power bears the title 'Defeat in Victory'. And when [in subsequent chapter] the Prophet Unarmed is contemplated, the question will arise whether a strong element of victory was not concealed in his very defeat."

I think Edmund Wilson put it better, in his book on Marxism, To the Finland Station, where he writes of the:

... remarkable scene at the first congress of the Soviet dictatorship after the success of the October insurrection of 1917, when [Leon] Trotsky, with the contempt and indignation of a prophet, read [the socialist] Martov and his followers out of the meeting. "You are pitiful isolated individuals," he cried at this height of the Bolshevik triumph. "You are bankrupt; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on--in the garbage-pile of history!"

These words are worth pondering for the light they throw on the course of Marxist policy and thought. Observe that the merging of yourself with the onrush of the current of history is to save you from the ignoble fate of being a "pitiful isolated individual"; and that the failure to so merge yourself will relegate you to the garbage-pile of history, where you can presumably be of no more use.

Today [in the late 1930s], though we may agree with the Bolsheviks that Martov was no man of action, his croakings over the course that they had adopted seem to us full of far-sighted intelligence. He pointed out that proclaiming a socialist regime in conditions different from those [of advanced industrialization, high technology, and material abundance] contemplated by Marx would not realize the results that Marx expected; that Marx and Engels had usually described the "dictatorship of the proletariat" as having the form, for the new dominant class, of a democratic republic, with universal suffrage [for the working class] and the popular recall of officials; that the [Bolshevik] slogan "All power to the Soviets [workers' councils]" had never really meant what it said and that it had soon been exchanged by Lenin for "All power to the Bolshevik Party."

There sometimes turn out to be valuable objects cast away in the garbage-pile of history--things that have to be retrieved later on. From the point of view of the Stalinist Soviet Union, that is where [Leon] Trotsky himself is today [in the late 1930s]. He might well discard his earlier assumption that an isolated individual must needs be "pitiful" for the conviction of Dr. Stockman in Ibsen's [play] An Enemy of the People that "the strongest man is he who stands most alone. (pp. 436-7)

Another passage from To the Finland Station (pp. 431-2):

We who of recent years have seen the State that Trotsky helped to build in a phase combining the butcheries of the Robespierre Terror with the corruption and reaction of the Directory, and Trotsky himself figuring dramatically in the role of Gracchus Babeuf, may be tempted to endow him with qualities which actually he does not possess and with principles which he has expressly repudiated. ...


E. H. Carr and Isaac Deutscher: A Very Special Relationship

Written By: Michael Cox <> Date: April 2001

Published In: Issue 12: Summer 2001 (The editor)

Earlier this year, the New Socialist Approaches to History seminar hosted a round table on "E. H. Carr, Isaac Deutscher and the politics of the Western left during the Cold War era". This article is taken from Michael Cox's introduction to the discussion.

E. H. Carr and Isaac Deutscher played a crucial intellectual role during their twenty year period of close association between 1947 - when they first met in London - and 1967 when Deutscher suddenly and tragically died in Italy.

For the left in particular the two men performed a major, almost indispensable function. Most obviously, they helped inform the left about the early years of the Russian revolution, an event that both defended on historical grounds (a not insignificant contribution in the chill days of the early Cold War). Through their massive research they also helped educate a generation about the crucial political battles of the 1920s in the USSR, in the process making it clear that the differences between Lenin and Stalin - and by implication Leninism and Stalinism - were fundamental.

And in their own, very different ways, they did a great deal too in rescuing the reputations of Trotsky and Lenin from their various critics and enemies. True, Carr was more drawn towards Lenin than Trotsky. But he remained an admirer of the great prophet who was first 'armed' and then 'outcast', and indeed observed in one of his reviews of Deutscher's famous trilogy that Deutscher's three volume biography was not only one of the outstanding literary masterpieces of the twentieth century, but more than did justice to the towering historical importance of its subject matter.

The close relationship between the two men was certainly noted (and criticised) at the time. Isaiah Berlin, no less, once remarked that the problem with Carr was not that he was a Marxist himself, but rather that he provided a mantle of respectability for those like Deutscher who were. The right-wing critic, Leopold Labedz, was less restrained. This 'unusal pairing', he noted, were a most formidable team who together probably did more than anybody else in the West to challenge conservative truths about the nature of the Russian revolution. Zbigniew Brzezinski was even less ambiguous. Deutscher, he felt, was beyond the pale, while Carr, in his view, was possibly one of the most dangerous men in Britain. Praise indeed from the doyen of the US Cold War establishment!

Basically, three things brought and kept the two men together: the Cold War itself and their marginal status during the dark days of the McCarthyism; a profound desire to write about the Soviet experince in a serious but sympathetic way; and a critical urge to understand the logic of Stalinism as a complex phenomenon that both challenged the ideals of the October revolution and yet preserved some of its social and economic gains. Neither was an apologist for the USSR. On the other hand, in a bipolar world where there appeared to be little possibility of socialist change in the West, one had only one of two choices they reasoned: either to join in the anti-Soviet chorus, and so fuel the Cold War, or defend the USSR against its liberal and right-wing critics. There was, they believed, no real alternative. ...

But if Carr was no Marxist, he was nonetheless greatly attracted to Deutscher, or more precisely the Deutschers - Isaac and Tamara together. ...

Yet he was at home with Deutscher it seems, whose books he frequently and positively reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement, whose career he often tried to help along (as he did when he got him to do the Trevelyan lectures in Cambridge in 1967), and whose memory he held dear until his own death at the age of 90 in 1982.

Tamara Deutscher put it nicely in 1983 in a short, but moving description of the two men which appeared in the New Left Review (a journal that both men influenced greatly):

"At first sight their personal amity might seem puzzling: on one side a self-educated former member of the Polish Communist Party, and on the other an English historian who was an unmistakable product of Cambridge, a former member of the Foreign Office schooled in a diplomatic service famous as a bastion of the British establishment".

Yet, the relationship she noted, managed to flourish for the better part of twenty years. Born in the dark days of the early Cold War and cemented by profound personal bonds, it was a most special relationship. ==

(5.5) Isaiah Berlin: The liberal gilder of dung heaps

Green Left Weekly

Issue 367 Wednesday, July 7, 1999

Berlin's biggest personal test, and failing, was in 1963. The University of Sussex had offered a professorship and head of its Department of Soviet Studies to Isaac Deutscher, a Marxist, renowned author of a brilliant biography of Trotsky and expert analyst of Russian society.

The offer, however, was withdrawn. Berlin, who was on the board of the university, had provided confidential advice to the vice-chancellor that he would find Deutscher "morally intolerable" because Deutscher, a committed Marxist, "subordinates scholarship to ideology". ==


Thursday, 23 April, 1998, 18:15 GMT 19:15 UK Blair's best books

Tony Blair: fan of Dickens and CS Lewis The Sherlock Holmes mysteries, The Lord of the Rings, and a biography of Leon Trotsky are among the books that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has most enjoyed.

Mr Blair revealed his favourite reading matter while speaking to 200 children at the Globe Theatre in London, at an event to mark World Book Day on Thursday.

His own childhood favourites had included CS Lewis's Narnia books and Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped, as well as JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings.

As a student, Mr Blair said he had been particularly interested by Isaac Deutscher's biography of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. ==


The Ukraine question

A Reply to Trotsky's Polemic

An article by Leon Trotsky, 'The Problem of the Ukraine', in which he called for an independent Ukraine, was published in the 9 May 1939 issue of Socialist Appeal (USA).1 Hugo Oehler of the Revolutionary Workers' League attacked it. Trotsky's reply first appeared under the title of 'The Independence of the Ukraine and Sectarian Muddleheads' in the 15 and 18 September 1939 issues of Socialist Appeal.2 It was republished in the December 1949 issue of Fourth International. It is to this reply of Trotsky's that we have the rejoinder of Oehler's, published in the November 1939 issue of International News, and which we publish below.

At the end of his first article, Trotsky said of his position: 'This appears to me to be the correct policy. I speak here personally and in my own name. The question must be opened up to international discussion ... There is little time left for preparation.' ...

The line of argument used by Trotsky is that a united Ukraine presupposes the separation of the Soviet Ukraine. Trotsky in his original quotation, not we in our reply, starts with the premise that after the workers' political revolution against Stalinism is completed in the Soviet Ukraine, then we shall separate. Our position, and the quotation Trotsky uses makes this clear, is that we present the opposite line of march - if the political revolution against Stalinism in the Ukraine is successful, we shall drive deeper. The next sentence of our article on the extension of the political revolution, which Trotsky does not quote, is as follows:

`If the workers regain their position in Soviet Ukraine before the proletarian revolution in the Western Ukraine they should drive deeper into the Soviet Union against Stalinism and the other imperialist agents.' ==


Stalin's legacy (Filed: 05/03/2003)

Fifty years ago today, Josef Stalin died. The political system he had created then dominated much of Europe, Asia and the Middle East; later it spread into Africa and Latin America. In the Western democracies, communist parties were influential, especially among intellectuals. The Soviet hydrogen bomb, about to be revealed, would enable Stalin to confront on equal terms the only power capable of resistance, America. A new wave of terror was sweeping the Soviet Union and its satellites, in preparation for the imminent reckoning with the capitalist West. The death of Stalin came just in time, not only for the millions languishing in the prison camps of the Gulag Archipelago and the hundreds of millions incarcerated in his empire, but also for all mankind.

Posterity has been kind to Stalin. His crimes are already sinking into oblivion, whereas his great rival, Hitler, has rightly become uniquely synonymous with radical evil. We recall the Holocaust or Shoah in countless ways, and all the nations that fought or were occupied by the Nazis commemorate their dead. Where are the memorials to Stalin's nameless victims? Historians do not even agree about their numbers; more are constantly discovered as new evidence comes to light. At a conservative estimate, Stalin was directly responsible for the deaths of some 20 million. Indirectly, the totalitarian communism of which Stalin was the chief architect has so far killed up to 100 million around the world. By comparison, the Nazis' victims numbered about 25 million.

Why is there still such an imbalance in our judgment of the two great tyrannies of the past century? In part, this has to do with Stalin's role in the victory over Hitler: the gratitude of the Western allies to "Uncle Joe" was sincere. Another factor is the uniqueness of the Holocaust, which has overshadowed all other crimes against humanity. Few consider that Stalin, too, was a racist, indeed an extreme anti-Semite. In the 1930s, he established a Jewish state, Birobidzhan, on the Chinese border. By 1953, Jews were being arrested, tried and shot throughout his empire, and it seems that he intended to deport the entire Soviet Jewish population to perish in Siberia and Kazakhstan: a fate that had already befallen many others, including the Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars and Chechens.

{Sudoplatov contests this: sudoplat.html. The murder of Stalin, within 2 months' of the Doctors' Plot being announced, suggested that the 'plot" was not mere fancy: death-of-stalin.html}

The most important reason for Stalin's relative impunity, however, is the intellectual double standard that was applied to Communism and Nazism throughout the 20th century, the influence of which has survived the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. Hitler's atrocities taught the Right a salutary lesson, but Stalin's crimes have not served the same purpose on the Left.

From the Bolshevik Revolution onwards, not only card-carrying Communists, but also Marxist intellectuals and other fellow travellers wilfully disregarded the evidence of repression, terror and famine. The Trotskyist Isaac Deutscher's standard biography of Stalin, which appeared in 1949, devoted only two mealy-mouthed sentences to the Gulag, and glossed over the famines. The late Christopher Hill, Master of Balliol, declared that humanity "not only in Russia but in all countries will always be in his debt". In his memoirs, the Peter Simple columnist Michael Wharton recalls that his own comment on Stalin's death ("Pity he was ever born!") shocked his BBC colleagues, to whom it was "simply blasphemous. They did not speak to me again for a fortnight, and ever afterwards avoided me."

Even after 1953, awkward facts were still explained away or simply ignored by those who believed that Stalin's ends justified his means. His laudatory obituary in The Times was the work of E H Carr, leader writer and author of a standard history of Soviet Russia, who saw Stalin as a "genius", "the dynamic force inherent in the revolution itself". Carr told an audience in Harvard in 1967 that "the sum of human wellbeing and human opportunity is immeasurably greater in Russia today than it was 50 years ago".

The reaction to Martin Amis's recent book about Stalin, Koba the Dread, showed that attitudes to Stalin are still ambiguous. In his widely praised Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991, the historian Eric Hobsbawm denies that Stalin's Soviet Union was totalitarian and compares it with America, concluding that "the second was probably the more dangerous". The intellectuals who now denounce Bush and Blair as warmongers will support a Saddam or a Mugabe, however cruel, against America, as long as he is identified with the Left. Thus is the Cold War continued by other means. {end}

Making Sense of Stalin: stalin.html. Stalin rejected the 1946 Baruch Plan for World Government: baruch-plan.html ==

(5.9) Christopher Hitchens - a Trotskyist, came out as a Neocon in support of Zionism and the Iraq War: cia-infiltrating-left.html. Hitchens has written introductions for David R. Dow and Mark Dow's Machinery of Death: The Reality of America's Death Penalty Regime and The Prophet Armed: Trotsky 1879-1921 by Isaac Deutscher


(6) Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed Trotsky: 1979-1921 (Oxford University Press, London, 1954).

{This begins with the Red Army's 1920 attempt to invade Poland, as a means of spreading the Revolution to Germany}

{p. 464} Pilsudski was not likely to accept the 'Curzon line' as a frontier and he might have used the respite of an armisitice to prepare a come-back. Trotsky was willing to take this risk. He set his mind on the political and moral advantages of the course of action he advocated and on the dangers which would attend Lenin's policy. He held that a straightlforward public peace offer, making it clear that the Soviets had no designs on Poland's independence and coveted no truly Polish territory, would favourably impress the Polish people. If Pilsudski accepted the offer, well and good. If not, the Polish people and the world would know whom to blame for the continuation of war. Trotsky argued that the Red Army's advance towards Warsaw, without a preliminary offer of peace, would destroy the Russian Revolution's goodwill with the Polish people and play into Pilsudski's hands. For nearly a century and a half the greater part of Poland had been subjugated by the Tsars. It was less than two years since the Poles had regained independence, solecmnly guaranteed to them by the Russian Revolution. A Russian army invading Polish soil, even though under provocation from Pilsudski and even though marching under the Red flag, would seem to them the direct successor to those Tsarist armies which had kept them, their fathers, and their forefathers in bondage. The Poles would then defend their native soil tooth and nail.

Lenin did not share these scruples and forebodings. It was Pilsudski who had, deliberately and conspicuously, played the aggressor's part, while Lenin had made every effort to avert the war. Now, when the fortunes of battle favoured the Red Army, it was, in Lenin's view, its right and duty to grasp the fruits of victory - no victorious soundly led army stops halfway in the pursuit of an almost routed enemy; and no moral, political, or strategic principle forbids an army to invade the aggressor's territory in the course of a pursuit.

Nor was this all. Lenin believed that the workers and peasants of Poland would greet the invaders as their liberators. All the Bolshevik leaders, including Trotsky, had only a dim idea of the facts of the situation: they had as a result of the blockade lost

{p. 465} contact with Poland as completely as if that country had been many thousands of miles away. They knew that there had been Soviets in Poland, in which the communists had wielded a very strong influence; and they believed them to be still in existence. Their information was more than a year out of date. In the meantime, in Poland as in the rest of central Europe, the tide had turned: Pilsudski had dispersed the Soviets and severely suppressed the Communist party. A group of eminent Polish Socialists, who had joined the Bolsheviks, lived in Moscow; and to them the Politbureau turned for advice. They were strangely divided: Radek, Markhlevsky, and (it seems) Dzerzhinsky, who had belonged to the internationalist wing of Polish socialism and had not believed in the resurrection of Poland as a nation-state, now warned the Politbureau that the Red Army's invasion would be foiled by a powerful upsurge of Polish patriotic sentiment. It was in part as an effect of this warning that Trotsky adopted his attitude. Lenin appears to have been more impressed by a report of Lapinsky, who had come from the more patriotic wing of Polish socialism, and who greatly exaggerated the strength of Polish communism. Swept by optimism, believing that the Red Army's advance would be a signal for the outbreak of revolution in Poland, Lenin swayed the Politbureau. Even Stalin, who had soberly dismissed the idea of a march on Warsaw, changed sides; and Trotsky was alone in opposing it.

Lenin played for even higher stakes. Poland was the bridge between Russia and Germany; and across it Lenin hoped to establish contact with Germany. He imagined that Germany, too, was in intense revolutionary ferment. There was some fire behind the smoke of illusion. In March 1920 a section of the German army carried out a coup d'etat in Berlin, with the intention of crushing the parliamentary regime and establishing a military dictatorship. Within two days, the coup, the so-called Kapp Putsch, was undone by a general strike of the German workers. This was a signal demonstration of the strength of German Labour. The initiative for the strike had come from the trade unions, not from the communists; but shortly thereafter German communism was vigorously making headway,

{p. 466} although it still failed to carry the bulk of the working class. Enough that Lenin mooted the idea that the appearance of the Red Army at Germany's frontier might stimulate and intensify the processes of revolution. He intended to 'probe Europe with the bayonet of the Red Army'. At a session of the Revolutionary War Council, which took place at the height of the offensive, he passed a note to Sklyansky, saying that 'Warsaw must be taken within three to five days at any cost'. He insistently inquired whether the Red Army, which had already entered the Pomeranian 'corridor', could cut that corridor so as to deny the Poles access to Danzig. Danzig was the port through which Poland received munitions from the West; but it was also a point of contact with Germany.

Despite his premonition of disaster, Trotsky submitted to the decision of the majority. He stayed in office, issued the marching orders, and carried on with routine jobs - only his visits to the front seem to have ceased. As the offensives progressed, a Revolutionary War Council of Poland was appointed, virtually a Provisional Government, headed by those Polish Bolsheviks who had been opposed to the venture. The farther the Red Army advanced, the more uneasy were the Council's reports to Moscow. The Polish workers and peasants met the invaders as conquerors, not liberators. But now the Red Army was irresistibly carried forward by its own impetus, extending its lines of communication and exhausting itself. A dangerous gap also arose between the northern armies, which, under Tukhachevsky, were approaching Warsaw, and the southern ones, which, under Yegorov and Budienny, had veered south-westwards towards Lvov. The chief political commissar to the southern armies, appointed on Trotsky's insistence, was Stalin, who was keen on emulating Tukhachevsky and on getting Lvov as his prize while Tukhachevsky was entering Warsaw. Into this gap in the centre Pilsudski would presently spring to strike at Tukhachevsky's flank and rear. For a moment the gap worried Lenin; and the General Staff began, somewhat late in the day, to urge the commanders of the southern armies to close it.

{p. 467} But the Red Army still rolled on; and Moscow was all exultation.

At this stage of the campaign, from the middle of July to 7 August, the second congress of the Communist International was in session in Petrograd and Moscow. During the past year the European Labour movements had swung towards the International: leaders of great and old Socialist parties now almost humbly knocked at its doors. The congress discussed the terms of membership, the famous '21 Points', formulated by Lenin and Zinoviev, the tasks of the Communist parties, the fate of the colonial nations, and so on. But the debates were dominated by the thrilling expectation of the military denouement in Poland which would give a new and mighty impulse to European revolution. In front of a large war map Lenin daily gave the foreign delegates his optimistic comment on Tukhachevsky's advance.

At the beginning of the congress, Trotsky made a brief appearance in order to endorse the '21 Points' in the debate. He came back just before the end of the congress - the Red Army now stood at the very gates of Warsaw - to present the Manifesto he had written on behalf of the International. The delegates greeted him with a tributary roar of applause. In a crescendo of resounding phrases and images he surveyed the international scene in the first year of the Versailles Peace. He angrily denounced the 'Babylon' of decaying capitalism and tore the 'mask of democracy' from its face. 'German parliamentary democracy', he stated, 'is nothing but a void between two dictatorships. The delegates listened to him in breathless suspense; and the magic of his words and images was heightened as the battle, of which they thought him to be the inspirer, mounted to its climax. Yet Trotsky refrained from boasting, and in the manifesto he made no reference to the Red Army's victories. The delegates did not even notice his reticence. They could not guess what tense a apprehension was hidden behind his selr-confildent appearance and resounding language. In this assembly, where even the most prudent men were carried away by joyous excitement, he alone refused to celebrate the victory, as he architect of which he was being acclaimed.

{p. 468} A week later the battle of the Vistula began. It lasted only three days. It did not change the course of history, as its contemporaries believed - it only delayed it by a quarter of a century. But at the end of the battle the Red Army was in full retreat. While the battle was at its height, the Politbureau asked Trotsky to go to the front and try to retrieve the situation. He refused. He did not deceive himself, he replied, that he could now stave off defeat by any brisk personal intervention on the spot.

For the moment the debacle seemed even worse than it was, because Wrangel's Guards, seeing the Red Army tied down by the Poles, had broken out of the Crimea and invaded the Caucasus. Two days after the battle of the Vistula, on 19 August, Trotsky and Stalin jointly reported to the Politbureau on the military situation; and the Politbureau, apparently acknowledging defeat in Poland, resolved to give first priority to the campaign against Wrangel. Both Stalin and Trotsky were put in charge of a new mobilization of party members. Most of those mobilized were to be sent to the Crimea; and the bulk of Budienny's cavalry was to be diverted from the Polish front. Stalin was also instructed to work out measures to be taken in case of Wrangel's further advance. However, Wrangel's troops, although excellently equipped, were too weak in numbers and too disheartened to create a serious threat. They soon withdrew into the Crimea, hoping to hold out behind the fortified narrow neck of the Perekop Isthmus. After an epic and savage battle, directed by Frunze and Stalin, the Red Army broke through the Isthmus and drove Wrangel into the sea. This was the epilogue of the civil war.

On 12 October the Soviets signed a provisional peace with Poland. But for a time war was still in the air. ln Poland the ruling parties were divided. The Peasant Party - its leader Witos headed the government - pressed for peace, while

{p. 469} Pilsudski's military party did its utmost to disrupt the parleys with Russia. In Moscow, too, views were divided. The majority of the Politbureau favoured a renewal of hostilities. Some of those who did so expected that Pilsudski would not keep the peace anyhow; others craved for revenge. The General Staff discussed a new offensive. Tukhachevsky was confident that next time he would hold his victory parade in Warsaw. Trotsky relates that Lenin was at first inclined towards war, but only half-heartedly. At any rate, Trotsky insisted on peace and on the loyal observance of the provisional treaty with Poland; and once again he found himself in danger of being outvoted and reduced to dutiful execution of a policy he abhorred. From this he at last shrank. He declared that the differences went so deep that this time he would not feel bound by any majority decision or by Politbureau solidarity, and that, if outvoted, he would appeal to the party against its leadership. He used a threat similar to that which Lenin had, with overwhelming effect, used in the controversy over Brest; and he, too, achieved his purpose. In comparison with that controversy the roles were indeed curiously reversed. But the sequel was in a way similar, for now Lenin deserted the war faction and shifted his influence to back Trotsky. Peace was saved.

The differences had gone deep. Yet it is doubtful whether any single Bolshevik leader, including Trotsky, was or could be aware of their full historic import, on which only the events of the middle of this century have thrown back a sharp, illuminating light.

It had been a canon of Marxist politics that revolution cannot and must not be carried on the point of bayonets into foreign countries. The canon was based on the experience of the French Revolution which had found its fulfilment and also its undoing in Napoleonic conquest. The canon also followed from the fundamental attitude of Marxism which looked to the working classes of all nations as to the sovereign agents of socialism and certainly did not ecxpect socialism to be imposed upon peoples from outside. The Bolsheviks, and Trotsky, had often said that the Red Army might intervene in a neighbouring country, but

{p. 470} only as the ally and auxiliary of actual popular revolution, not as an independenlt, decisive agent. In this auxiliary role Lenin wished the Red Army to help the Soviet revolution in Hungary, for instance. In this role, too, the Red Army or the Red Guards had sporadically intervened in Finland and Latvia to assist actual Soviet revolutions which enjoyed popular backing and which were defeated primarily by foreign, mostly German, intervention. In none of these instances did the Red Army carry the revolution abroad. In the Polish war the Bolsheviks went a step farther. Even now Lenin had not become plainly converted to revolution by conquest. He saw the Polish working classes in potential revolt; and he expecled that the Red Army's advance would act as a catalyst. But this was not the same as assisting an actual revolution. Whatever Lenin's private beliefs and motives, the Polish war was Bolshevism's first important essay in revolution by conquest. True, the Politbureau embarked on it in the heat of war, under abundant provocation, without grasping all the implications of its own decision. But this is the way in which great fateful turns in history occur: those who initiate them are often unconscious of what it is they initiate. This in particular is the manner in which revolutionary parties begin to throw overboard their hallowed principles and to transform their own character. If the Red Army had seized Warsaw, it would have proceeded to act as the chief agent of social upheaval, as a substitute, as it were, for the Polish working class. It will be remembered that in his youthful writings Trotsky had berated Lenin for 'substitutism', i.e. for a propensity to see in the party a locum tenens of the working class. And here was indeed an instance of that substitutism, projected on the international scene, except that an army rather than a party was to act as proxy for a foreign prolelariat.

This was all the more strange as in the course of two decades Lenin had fervently inculcated into his disciples and followers an almost dogmatic respect for the right of every nation, but more especially of Poland, to full self-determination. He had parted with comrades and friends who had been less dogmatic about this. He had filled reams with incisive arlgumenlt against those Poles - Rosa Luxemburg, Radek, and Dzerzhinsky - who, as internationalists, had refused to promote the idea of a

{p. 471} Polish nation-state, while Poland was still partitioned. Now Lenin himself appeared to obliterate his own efforts and to absolve the violation of any nation's independence, if committed in the name of revolution.

Lenin grew aware of the incongruity of his role. He admitted his error. He spoke out against carrying the revolution abroad on the point of bayonets. He joined hands with Trotsky in striving for peace. The great revolutionary prevailed in him over the revolutionary gambler.

However, the 'error' was neither fortuitous nor inconsequential. It had had its origin in the Bolshevik horror of isolation in the world, a horror shared by all leaders of the party but affecting their actions differently. The march on Warsaw had been a desperate attempt to break out of that isolation. Although it had failed it was to have a deep influence on the party's outlook. The idea of revolution by conquest had been injeceted into the Bolshevik mind; and it went on to ferment and fester. Some Bolsheviks, reflecting on the experience, naturally reached the conclusion that it was not the attempt itself to carry revolution abroad by force of arms but merely its failure that was deplorable. If only the Red Army had captured Warsaw, it could have established a proletarian dictatorship there, whether the Polish workers liked it or not. It was a petty bourgeois prejudice that only that revolution rested on solid foundations whieh corresponded to the wishes and desires of the people. The main thing was to be better armed and better prepared for the next venture of this kind.

We shallh discuss in the next ehapter the domestic experiences of the Bolsheviks which fed and reinforced this trend of thought. Here it is enough to say that the trend showed itself in the attitude of those members of the Politbureau who favoured a renewal of hostililies with Poland. Yet the old Bolsheviks could develop such views only privately and tentatively.

{p. 492} The army was to become permcated with the spirit of civilian citizenship. Its detachments were to be organized on the basis of productive units. On the other hand, civilian labour was to be subjected to military discipline; and the military administration was to supply manpower to industrial units. The Commissariat of War was to assume the functions of the Commissariat of Labour.

Lenin wholeheartedly supported Trotsky's policy. He clung to war communism, which could be made to work, if at all, only on condition that the measures proposecd by Trotsky were successful. Nor did Lenin object to the assumption by the Commissariat of War of the responsibility for the supply of industrial labour. Lenin had had to build up the civilian branches of his administration from scratch; and, after the years of civil war, most of them were still in a rudimentary stage. The Commissariat of War had absorbed the best men; it had had first claim on the government's resources; it was directed by the most clear-headed administrator. Its machinery, formidable and highly efficient, was the most solid part of Lenin's administration, its real hub. It seemed a matter of administrative convenience to switch the Commissariat to civilian work.

No sooner had these proposals become known than they let loose an avalanche of protests. At conferences of party members, administrators, and trade unionists, Trotsky was shouted down as the 'new Arakcheev', the imitator of that ill-famed general and Minister of War who, under Alexander I and Nicholas I, had set up military farming colonies and ruled them with a rod of iron. Arakcheevschina had ever since been the by-word for grotesque flights of military-bureaucratic fancy over the field of economic and social policies. The cry of protest rose in the Bolshevik newspapers. It came from Trotsky's old associates, Ryazanov and Larin, from the eminent Bolsheviks Rykov, Miliutin, Nogin, Goltzman, and from others. Waeriness of civil war and impatience with the architect of victory mingled in these protests. As usually happens in a time of reaction from the tensions and sacrifices of war, people were willing to cover with

{p. 493} laurels the man responsible for victory. But they were even more eager to get rid of the rigours of wartime discipline; and they looked for guidance to men who were of less fiery temperament and less splendid talents, but who were willing to pursue milder courses of action. Old, battle-hardened Bolsheviks were heard to declare that they had had enough of the army's impositions, that the Commissariat of War had long enough kept the country under terror and sucked its blood, and that they would not countenance Trotsky's new ambitions.

Matters came to a head on 12 January 1920, when Lenin and Trotsky appeared before the Bolshevik leaders or the trade unions and urged them to accept militarization. Trotsky defended his own record. If his Commissariat, he said, had 'pillaged' the country and exacted severe discipline, it had done so to win the war. It was a disgrace and a 'sin against the spirit of the revolution' that this should now be held against him, and that the working class should be incited against the army. His opponents were complacent about the country's economic condition. The newspapers concealed the real state of affairs. 'It is necessary to state openly and frankly in the hearing of the whole country, that our economic condition is a hundred times worse than our military situation ever was. ... Just as we once issued the order "Proletarians, to horse!", so now we must raise the cry "Proletarians, back to the factory bench! Proletarians back to production!"'1 The nation's labour force continued to shrink and degenerate. It could not be saved, reconstituted, and rehabilitated without the application of coercive measures. Lenin spoke in the same vein. Yet the conference almost unanimously rejected the resolution which he and Trotsky jointly submitted. Of more than three score Bolshevik leaders only two men voted for it. Never before had Trotsky or Lenin met with so striking a rebuff.

Trotsky's strictures on the complacency of his critics were not unjustified. The critics did not and could not propse any practical alternative. They, too, clung to war communism and disavowed only the conclusion Trotsky had drawn from it. He had little difficulty therefore in exposing their inconsistency. Yet there was a certain realism and valuable scruple in their very lack of consistency. Trotsky's opponents refuscd to believe

1 Trotsky, op. cit., pp. 27-52.

{p. 496} ... He had just written these words when, in the middle of the night, he was shaken by a violent concussion. His train became derailed in a severe snowstorm. Throughout the night and the whole of the next day the train lay in snowdrifts almost within sight of a small station. Not a soul came to inquire what had happened. The station-masters had ceased to signal the passage of trains; even the train of the President of the Supreme War Council had passed through unnoticed. Despite the threat of court martial, nobody bothered to clear away the snowdrifts from the tracks. The accident unepectedly revealed to Trotsky the void which grew around governmental policies and plans. A fathomless apathy shrouded the people. Trotsky raged, conductce an investigation on the spot, and ordered a military tribunal into action. But he could not help relecting that repression alone could not remedy the people's numb insensibility. His forebodings grew darker during his sojourn in the countryside of the Urals. He became acutely aware that the nation's energy and vitality was drying up at its very source- on the farmstead.

He now searched for remedies beyond war communism. He returned to Moscow with the conclusion that a measure of economic freedom should be restored to the peasantry. In clear and precise terms he outlined the storm which alone could lead the nation out of the impasse. There must be an end to the requisitioning of crops. The peasant must be encouraged to grow and sell surpluses and to make a profit on them. The government and the party were not aware of the magnitude of the disaster, bccause the last forcible collection had yielded more food than the previous one. This, he argued, was because after the retreat of the White Guards, the requisitions had been carried out over a much wider area than before. 'In general, however, the food reserves are in danger of drying up, and against this no improvement in the requisitioning machinery

{p. 497} can help.' That way lay further disruption, further shrinkage of the labour force and final economic and political degradation.

At the Central Committee his arguments carried no conviction. Lenin was not prepared to stop the requisitions. The reform Trotsky proposed looked to him like a leap in the dark. ... Trotsky proposed to throw the economy back on to the treacherous tides of a free market. This was what the Menshleviks demanded. Did Trotsky agree with them? had he become a free trader? he was asked. He was told that the party had advanced towards an organized and controlled economy and that it would not allow itself to be dragged back.

The Central Clommittee rejected his proposals. Only more than a year later, after the failure of war communism had been demonstrated with tragic conclusiveness, did Lenin take up the same proposals and put them into effect as the New Economic Policy (N.E.P.). ...

{p. 502} But no sooner had the Polish war been coneluded than the grievanees and dissensions exploded anew and with greater force than before. He himself provoked the explosion. Flushed with success, he threatened to 'shake up' various trade unions as he had 'shaken up' those of the transport workers. He threatened, that is, to dismiss the elected leaders of the unions and to replace them by nominees who would place the nation's economic interest above the sectional interests of the workers. He grossly overstepped the mark. Lenin now bluntly dissociated himself from Trotsky and persuaded lhe Central Committee to do likewise. The Committee openly called the party to resist energetically 'militarized and bureaucratic forms of work': and it castigated that 'degenerated centralism' which rode roughshlod over the workers' elected representatives. It called on the party to re-establish proletarian democracy in the trade unions and to subordinate all other considerations to this task ...

{p. 503} Trotsky, unrepentant, sulked. At the beginning of December, at a closed session of the Tsektran, he returned to the attacki on trade unionists who, as he said, had been good at conducting strikes in the old days but showed little understanding of the needs of a Socialist economy. He defended his practice of overruling them, made light of the demand for elections in the trade unions, and castigated those who cried out that a new bureaucracy was reviving Tsarist methods of government. 'Bureaucracy ...', he replied, 'was not a discovery of Tsardom. It has represented a whole epoch in the development of mankind', an epoch by no means closed. A competent, hierarchically organized civil service had its merits; and Russia suffered not from the excess but from the lack of an efficient bureaucracy. He made this point repeatedly, arguing that for the sake of efficiency it was necessary to grant certain limited privileges to the bureaucracy. He thus made himself the spokesman of the managerial groups, and this later enabled Stalin to taunt him plausibly with being the 'patriarch of the bureaucrats'. He was confident, Trotsky said, that he could win popular support ror his policy; but the economic and social breakdown left no time nor the application of the democratic process, which worked with unbearable slowness, because of the low cultural and political level of the Russian masses. 'What you call bossing and working through nominees is in inverse proportion to the enlightenment of the masses, to their cultural standards, political consciousness, and the strength of our administrative machinery.'

{p. 506} Now a conflict arose between the two aspects of the Soviet system. If the working classes were to be allowed to speak and vote freely they would destroy the dictatorship. If the dictatorship, on the other hand, frankly abolished proletarian democracy it would deprive itself of historic legitimacy, even in its own eyes. It would cease to be a proletarian dictatorship in the strict sense. Its use of that title would henceforth be based on the claim that it pursued a policy with which the working class, in its own interest, ought and eventually must identify itself, but with which it did not as yet identify itself. The dictatorship would then at best represent the idea of the class, not the class itself.

The revolution had now reached that cross-roads, well known to Machiavelli, at which it found it difficult or impossible to fix the people in their revolutionary persuasion and was driven 'to take such measures that, when they believed no longer, it might be possible to make them believe by force'. For the Bolshevik Party this involved a conflict of loyalties ... a conflict bearing the seeds of all the subsequent controversies and sombre purges of the next decades.

... Later Lenin recalled the 'fever' and 'mortal illness' which consumed the party in the winter of 1920-1, during the tumultuous debate over the place of the trade unions in the state. ...

{p. 507} At the other extreme the Workers' Opposition, led by Shlyapnikov and Kollontai, protested against the government's and the party's tutelage over the unions. They denounced Trotsky and Lenin as militarizers of labour and promoters of inequality. ...

{p. 508} They were the first Bolshevik dissenters to protest against the method of government designed 'to make the people believe by force'. They implored the party to 'trust its fate' to the working class which had raised it to power. They spoke the language which the whole party had spoken in 1917. ...

Against them, Trotsky prompted the party to cease for the time being the advocacy and practice of proletarian democracy and instead to concentrate on building up a Producers' Democracy. ...

{p. 509} Lenin refused to proclaim the divorce between the dictatorship and proletarian demoeracy. He, too, was aware that government and party were in confliet with the people; but he was afraid that Trotsky's policy would perpetuate the conflict. The party had had to override trade unions, to dismiss their recalcitrant leaders, to break or obviate popular resistance, and to prevent the free formation of opinion inside the Soviets. Only thus, Lenin held, could the revolution be saved. But he hoped that these practices would give his government a breathing space - his whole policy had become a single struggle for breathing spaces - during which it might modify its policies, make headway with the rehabilitation of the country, ease the plight of the working people, and win them back for Bolshevism. The dictatorship could then gradually revert to proletarian democracy. ...

{p. 510} While the Congress was in session the strangest of all insurrections flared up at the naval fortress of Kronstadt ...

{p. 511} Soon the cry 'Down with Bolshevik tyranny!' resounded throughout Kronstadt. The Bolshevik commissars on the spot were demoted and imprisoned. An anarchist committee assumed command; and amid the sailors' enthusiasm the flag of revolt was hoisted. ...

The Bolsheviks denounced the men of Kronstadt as counter-revolutionary mutineers ...

{p. 512} On 5 March Trotsky arrived in Petrograd and ordered the rebels to surrender unconditionally. 'Only those who do so', he stated, 'can count on the mercy of the Soviet Republic. Simultaneously with this warning I am issuing instructions that everything be prepared for the suppression of the mutiny by armed force. ... This is the last warning.' That it should have fallen to Trotsky to address such words to the sailors was another of history's ironics. This had been his Kronstadt, the Kronstadt he had called 'the pride and the glory of the revolution'. How many times had he not stumped the naval base during the hot days of 1917! How many times had not the sailors lifted him on their shoulders and wildly acclaimed him as their friend and leader! How devotedly they had followed him to the Tauride Palace, to his prison cell at Kresty, to the walls of Kazan on the Volga, always taking his advice, always almost blindly following his orders! ...

{p. 513} The rebels ignored his warning and hoped to gain time. This was the middle of March. The Bay of Finland was still ice-bound. In a few days, however, a thaw might set in; and then the fortress, bristling with guns, defended by the whole Red Navy of the Baltic, assured of supplies from Finland or other Baltie countries, would become inaccessible, almost invincible. In the meantime even Communists joined in the revolt, announcing that they had left 'the party of the hangman Trotsky'. The fortress, so Trotsky (or was it Tukhachevsky?) resolved, must be seized before ice floes barred the approach. In feverish haste picked regiments and shock troops were dispatchcd to reinforce the garrison of Petrograd. When the news of the mutiny reached the tenth congress, it aroused so much alarm and anger that most of the able-bodied delegates rushed straight from the conference hall in the Kremlin to place themselves at the head of the shock troops which were to storm the fortress across the Bay of Finland. Even leaders of the Workers' Opposition and Decemists who, at the congress, had just raised demands not very different from those the rebels voiced, went into battle. They, too, held that the sailors had no right to dictate, hands on triggers, even the justest of demands.

White sheets over their uniforms, the Bolshevik troops, under Tukhachevsky's command, advanced across the Bay. They were met by hurricane fire from Kronstadt's bastions. The ice broke under their feet; and wave after wave of white-shrouded attackers collapsed into the glacial Valhalla. The death march went on. From three directions fresh columns stumped and fumbled and slipped and crawled over the glassy surlace until they too vanished in fire, ice, and water. As the successive swarms and lines of attackers drowned, it seemed to the men of Kronstadt that the perverted Bolshevik revolution drowned with them and that the triumph of their own pure, unadulterated revolution was approaching. Such was the lot of these rebels, who bad denounced the Bolsheviks for their harshness and whose only aim it was to allow the revolution to imbibe the milk of human kindness, that for their survival they fought a

{p. 514} battle which in cruelty was unequalled throughout the civil war. The bitterness and the rage of the attackers mounted accordingly. On 17 March, after a night-long advance in a snow-storm, the Bolsheviks at last succeeded in climbing the walls. When they broke into the fortress, they fell upon its defenders like revengeful furies.

On 3 April Trotsky took a parade of the victors. 'We waited as long as possible', he said, 'for our blinded sailor-comrades to see with their own eyes where the mutiny led. But we were confronted by the danger that the ice would melt away and we were compelled to carry out ... the attack.' Describing the crushed rebels as 'comrades', he unwittingly intimated that what he celebrated was morally a Pyrrhic victory. Foreign Communists who visited Moscow some months later and believed that Kronstadt had been one of the ordinary incidents of the civil war, were 'astonished and troubled' to find that the leading Bolsheviks spoke of the rebels without any of the anger and hatred which they felt for the White Guards and interventionists Their talk was full of 'sympathetic reticences' and sad, enigmatic allusions, which to the outsider betrayed the party's troubled conscience.

The rising had not yet been defeated when, on 15 March, Lenin introduced the New Economicy Policy to the tenth congress. Almost without debate the congress accepted it. Silently, with a heavy heart, Bolshevism parted with its dream of war communism. It retreated, as Lenin said, in order to be in a better position to advance. The controversy over the trade unions and the underlying issue at once died down. The cannonade in the Bay of Finland and the strikes in Petrograd and elsewhere had demonstrated beyond doubt the unreality of Trotsky's ideas: and in the milder policies based on the mixed economy of subsequent years there was, anyhow, no room for the militariation of labour. ...

{p. 515} A decade later Stalin, who in 1920-1 had supported Lenin's 'liberal' policy, was to adopt Trotsky's ideas in all but name. Neither Stalin nor Trotsky, nor the adherents of either, then admitted the fact: Stalin - because he could not acknowledge that he was abandoning Lenin's attitude for Trotsky's; Trotsky - because he shrank in horror from his own ideas when he saw them remorselessly carried into execution by his enemy. There was hardly a single plank in Trotsky's programme of 1920-1 which Stalin did not use during the industrial revolution of the thirties. He introduced conscription and direction of labour; he insisted that the trade unions should adopt a 'productionist' policy instead of defending the consumer interests of the workers; he deprived the trade unions of the last vestige of autonomy and transformed them into tools of the state. He set himself up as the protector of the managerial groups, on whom he bestowed privileges of which Trotsky had not even dreamt. He ordered 'Socialist emulation' in the factories and mines; and he did so in words unceremoniously and literally taken from Trotsky. He put into effect his own ruthless version of that 'Soviet Taylorism' which Trotsky had advocated. And, finally, he passed from Trotsky's intellectual and historical arguments ambiguously justifying forced labour to its mass application.

In the previous chapter we traced the thread of unconscious historic continuity which led from Lenin's hesitant and shame-faced essays in revolution by conquest to the revolutions contrived by Stalin the conqueror. A similar subtle thread connects Trotsky's domestic policy of these years with the later practices of his antagonist. Both Trotsky and Lenin appear, each in a different field, as Stalin's unwitting inspirers and prompters.


(7) Deutscher an "insider" in the British Establishment

Deutscher's views have been propagated from the highest mouthpieces of the British Establishment.

Despite New Left intellectuals' thinking of themselves as oppositionist "outsiders", Deutscher's material was published by such establishment bodies as The Economist and the BBC. The winners of the Deutscher Prize are announced in the London Review of Books, and the Deutscher Memorial Lecture is presented at the London School of Economics.

On p. 7 of Deutscher's book The Great Purge, one reads:

"The text was originally written for the Home Service of the BBC, at the initiative of the late Lawrence Gilliam, head of Features Department, and transmitted twice in the course of 1965. It was also transmitted in Germany, Sweden and the USA."

(7.1) The sources below state that Isaac Deutscher "became chief European correspondent for The Economist"; he "contributed regularly political commentary on developments in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to The Economist, The Observer, the Tribune and other periodicals".

It's not that I'm telling The Economist who they can hire.

The point is, that here is a Capitalist, Zionist propaganda weekly giving full rein to a leading Trotskyist. Not just featuring his articles, but making him CHIEF correspondent on matters Soviet.

Deutscher was feted for his books about the USSR, especially on the Stalin-Trotsky struggle. In his book Stalin: A Political Biography, the word "Jews" does not even appear in the index.

Yet Benjamin Ginsberg, Professor of Political Science at John Hopkins University, noted the Jewish dominance in the early (pre-Stalin) Soviet Union: ginsberg.html

Deutscher thus "wrote out" this crucial aspect of what was happening.

Solzhenitsyn attested to the importance of this theme, in his book The First Circle, through the character Adam Roitman:

{quote} Perhaps his memory deceived him, but hadn't he been right in thinking that during the Revolution, and for a long time afterwards, Jews were regarded as more reliable than Russians? In those days, the authorities always probed more deeply into the antecedents of a Russian, demanding to know who his parents were and what the source of his income was prior to 1917. No such checks had been made on Jews; they had all been on the side of the Revolution which delivered them from pogroms and the Pale of settlement. "But now this. ... surreptitiously, hiding behind minor figures, Joseph Stalin was taking it upon himself to be the new scourge of the Israelites {endquote}

Reference: The First Circle, Fontana paperback, p. 511; see also pp. 510, 515-6, 547-8, 559.

Either Deutscher knew of the struggle between the Jewish and Russian factions of Communism, and suppressed it.

Or he did not know. Either way, he did not deserve his celebrity status.

That struggle led to the murder of Stalin in 1953: death-of-stalin.html.

(7.2) Isaac Deutscher

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Isaac Deutscher was (1907 - 1967) is a Polish journalist. Born in Krakow, Poland, he joined the Polish Communist Party in 1926. However, he was expelled in 1932 because he was critical of Joseph Stalin.

On the outbreak of World War II Deutscher moved to England and began writing for the The Observer. He also became chief European correspondent for The Economist. ...


List of the papers of ISAAC DEUTSCHER (1907-1967)


Hermien van Veen

Amsterdam, 2000

Biographical/historical note

... contributed regularly political commentary on developments in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to The Economist, The Observer, the Tribune and other periodicals ...

(7.4) Deutscher was not only reviewed (and favourably) in the London Review of Books, but in the New York Review of books too.

New York Review of Books

Volume 8, Number 7 April 20, 1967


The Risks of Prophecy by Walter Laqueur

Ironies of History by Isaac Deutscher Oxford, 296 pp., $5.75

{both of these authors happen to be Jewish}

Of all those who have written about Soviet affairs since the Second World War, Isaac Deutscher is one of the most widely read and interesting. In spite of an inclination towards hagiography, his three-volume study of Trotsky is the definitive work on the subject and, at the same time, among the best contemporary political biographies. His Stalin made the Soviet leader and the whole period of his rule come to life as no other book has done. ...


(8) When Trotsky applied for asylum in Britain, he was supported by Sidney & Beatrice Webb, H. G. Wells, Bernard Shaw & Keynes

The Prophet Outcast Trotsky: 1929-1940

Isaac Deutscher (Oxford University Press, London 1970)

{p. 16} The British House of Commons discussed Trotsky's admission as early as February 1929. The Government made it clear that it would not allow him to enter. The country was just about to have an election and the Labour Party was expected to return to office. Before the end of April two leading lights of Fabianism, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, arrived in Constantinople and respectfully asked Trotsky to receive them.1 Despite old political animosities he entertained them courteously, eagerly enlightening himself on the economic and political facts of British life. The Webbs expressed their confidence that the Labour Party would win the election, whereupon he remarked that he would then apply for a British visa. Sidney Webb regretted that the Labour Government would depend on Liberal support in the Commons, and the Liberals would object to Trotsky's admission. After a few weeks Ramsay MacDonald did indeed form his second government with Sidney Webb, now Lord Passfield, as one of his Ministers.

Early in June, Trotsky applied to the British Consulate in Constantinople and cabled a formal request for a visa to MacDonald. He also wrote to Beatrice Webb, in terms as elegant as witty, about their talks at Prinkipo and the attraction that Britain, especially the British Museum, exercised on him. He appealed to Philip Snowden, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, saying that political differences should not prevent him from visiting England just as they had not prevented Snowden from going to Russia when Trotsky was in office. 'I hope to be able soon to return you the kind visit you paid me in

1 The Webbs' correspondence with Trotsky is in The Archives, Closed Section. The letter in which they ask Trotsky to receive them is dated 29 April 1929.

{p. 17} Kislovodsk', he telegraphed George Lansbury.1 It was all in vain. However, it was not the Liberals who objected to his admission. On the contrary, they protested against the attitude of the Labour Ministers; and Lloyd George and Herbert Samuel repeatedly intervened, in private, in Trotsky's favour.2 'This was a variant', he commented, 'which Mr. Webb did not foresee.' On and off, for nearly two years, the question was raised in Parliament and in the Press. H. G. Wells and Bernard Shaw wrote two statements of protest against the barring of Trotsky; and J. M. Keynes, C. P. Scott, Arnold Bennett, Harold Laski, Ellen Wilkinson, J. L. Garvin, the Bishop of Birmingham, and many others appealed to the Government to reconsider their decision. The protests and appeals fell on deaf ears. 'This "one act" comedy on the theme of democracy and its principles ...', Trotsky observed, 'might have been written by Bernard Shaw, if the Fabian fluid which runs in his veins had been strengthened by as much as five per cent of Jonathan Swift's biood.'

Shaw, even if his satirical sting was not at its sharpest on this occasion, did what he could. He wrote to Clynes, the Home Secretary, about the 'ironic situation ... of a Labour and Socialist government refusing the right of asylum to a very distinguished Socialist while granting it ... to the most reactionary opponents. Now, if the government by excluding Mr. Trotsky could have also silenced him.... But Mr. Trotsky cannot be silenced. His trenchant literary power and the hold, which his extraordinary career has given him on the public imagination of the modern world, enable him to use every attempt to persecute him.... He becomes the inspirer and the hero of all the militants of the extreme left of every country. Those who had 'an unreasoning dread of him as a caged lion'

1 The copies of the application, cables, and letters are in The Archives, Closed Section. The letter to Beatrice Webb, written in French 'with Rosmer's help' says, inter alia: 'Je me souviens avec plaisir de votre visite. Ce fut pour moi une surprise agreable et, bien que nos points de vue sc soient reveles irreductibles, ce que nous savions bien du reste, la conversation avec les Webbs m'a montre que celui qui a etudie la desormais classique histoire du trade-unionisme pouvait cncore bien tirer profit d'un entrctiell avec ses auteurs.' Speaking of the attraction Brltam had for him, Trosky mentioned 'ma sympathic deja ancienne pour le British Museum'.

2 The Archives, Closed Section, British Files. Trotsky's British correspondent who kept him au couran with these developments was a cousin of Herbert Samuel. He quoted Samuel himself as the source of the information.

{p. 18} should allow him to enter Britain 'if only to hold the key of his cage'. Shaw contrasted Kemal Pasha's behaviour with MacDonald's and found 'hard to swallow an example of liberality set by a Turkish government to a British one'.1

Other European governments were no more willing to 'hold the key of his cage'. The French dug up the order of expulsion issued against Trotsky in 1916 and declared it to be still in force. The Czechs at first were ready to welcome him, and Masaryk's Socialist Minister, Dr. Ludwig Chekh, addressing him as 'Most Respected Comrade', informed him, in agreement with Beneg, that the visa had been issued; but the correspondence ended frigidly, with the 'Comrade' addressed as 'Herr' and with an unexplained refusal.2 The Dutch, who were giving refuge to Kaiser Wilhelm, would not give it to Trotsky. In a letter to Magdeleine Paz he wrote ironically that, as he did not even know the Dutch language, the government could rest assured that he would not interfere in domestic Dutch affairs; and that he was prepared to live in any rural backwater, incognito.3 Nor were the Austrians willing to give 'an example of liberality' to others. The Norwegian Government declared that they could not allow him to enter their country because they could not guarantee his safety. Trotsky's friends sounded out even the rulers of the Duchy of Luxemburg. He found that 'Europe was without a visa'. He did not even think of applying to the United States, for this 'the most powerful nation of the world was also the most frightened'. He concluded that 'Europe and America were without a visa' and, 'as these two continents owned the other three, the planet was without a visa'. 'On many sides it had been explained to me that my disbelief in democracy was my cardinal sin. ... But when I ask to be given a brief object lesson in democracy there are no volunteers.'4

The truth is that even in exile Trotsky inspired fear. Governments and ruling parties made him feel that no one can lead a great revolution, defy all the established powers, and challenge

1 Quoted from the copy of Shaw's letter to Clynes, the Home Secretary, preserved in The Archives, ibid. Shaw intervened also with Henderson, the Foreign Secretary, who 'refused to interfere'.

{p. 19} the sacred rights of property with impunity. Bourgeois Europe gazed with amazement and glee at the spectacle, the like of which it had: not seen indeed since Napoleon's downfall - never since then had so many governments proscribed one man or had one man aroused such widespread animosity and alarm.1 Conservatives had not forgiven him the part he had played in defeating the anti-Bolshevik 'crusade of fourteen nations'. No one expressed their feelings better than Winston Churchill, the inspirer of that crusade, in a triumphantly mocking essay on 'The Ogre of Europe'. 'Trotsky, whose frown meted death to thousands, sits disconsolate, a bundle of old rags, stranded on the shores of the Black Sea.' Presently Churchill had second thoughts, and when he included the essay in Great Contemporaries, he replaced the 'bundle of old rags' by the words 'Trotsky - a skin of malice'. Trotsky's first political statements made 'on the shores of the Black Sea' showed him to have remained unshaken as enemy of the established order, and to be still as defiant and self-confident as he was in the days when he led the Red Army and addressed the world from the rostrum of the Communist International. No, no, this was not 'a bundle of old rags' - this was 'a skin of malice'.2

Ignorance of the issues that had split Bolshevism magnified the hatred and the fear. Reputable newspapers could not tell whether Trotsky's deportation was not a hoax and whether he had not left his country in secret agreement with Stalin in order to foster revolution abroad. The Times had 'reliable information' that this was indeed the case and saw Trotsky's hand

1 '... Sir Austen Chamberlain [the Foreign Secretary]', Trotsky wrote, 'has, according to newspaper reports ... expressed the opinion that regular relations [between Britain and the Soviet Union] ... will become perfectly possible on the day after Trotsky has been put against the wall. This lapidary formula does honour to the temperament of the Tory Minister ... but ... I take the liberty of advising him ... not to insist on this condition. Stalin has sufficiently shown how far he is prepared to go to meet Mr. Chamberlain by banishing me from the Soviet Union. If he has not gone further, this is not for lack of good will. It would really be too unreasonable to penalize, because of this, the Soviet economy and British industry.

2 Winston S Churchill, Great Contemporaries, p. 197. My italics. Churchill wrote the original essay in reply to an article by Trotsky for John o' London's Weekly. Commenting on Churchill's profile of Lenin, Trotsky had pointed out that Churchill's dates were mostly wrong and that he showed a total lack of insight into Lenin's character because of the gulf that separated him from the founder of Bolshevism 'Lenin thought in terms of epochs and continents, Churchill thinks in terms of parliamentary fireworks and feuilletons.'

{p. 20} behind Communist demonstrations in Germany.1 The Morning Post reported, with circumstantial details, on secret negotiations between Stalin and Trotsky which were to bring the latter back to the command of the armed forces; the paper knew that in connection with this Trotsky's sister had travelled between Moscow, Berlin, and Constantinople.2 The Daily Express spoke of 'this raven perched upon the bough of British socialism' - 'Even with the clipped wings and claws, he is not the sort of fowl that we in Britain canever hope to domesticate.'3 The Manchester Guardian and the Observer supported with some warmth Trotsky's claim to political asylum, but theirs were solitary voices. American newspapers saw Trotsky as the 'revolutionary incendiary' and Stalin as 'the moderate statesman' with whom America could do business.4 The German right wing and nationalist Press was raucous and rabid: 'Germany has enough trouble ... we consider it superfluous to add to it by extending hospitality to this most powerful propagandist of Bolshevism', said the Berliner Boersenzeitung.5 'Trotsky, the Soviet-Jewish bloodhound, would like to reside in Berlin', wrote Hitler's Beobachter. 'We shall have to keep a watchful eye on this Jewish assassin and criminal.'6

The Social Democratic parties, especially those which were in office, felt somewhat disturbed in their democratic conscience, but were no less afraid. When George Lansbury protested at a Cabinet meeting against the treatment of Trotsky, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, and the Home Secretary replied: 'There he is, in Constantinople, out of the way - it is to nobody's interest that he should be anywhere else. We are all afraid of him.'7 Beatrice Webb, express-

1 The Times, 10 May 1929.

2 Morning Post, 6-8 July 1929. The report was reproduced in many European papers. See e.g. Intransigeant of 8-9 July.

3 Daily Express, 19 June 1929.

4 See e.g. The New York American and The New York World of 27 February 1929. 'Stalin, Intelligent Russian,' wrote the latter, 'knows that power without money is a shadow, so he leans in the direction of money'; and this should 'interest America's conservative government'.

5 Berliner Borsenzeitung, 1February 1929.

6 9 February 1929. The more 'respectable' Hamburger Nachrichten of 25 January 1929 said: 'Stalin is reaping the consequence of his blunder in not having sent Trotsky and the Trotsky crowd into the Great Beyond. ...'

7 The source of this information is Lansbury himseif. He related it to Trotsky's British correspondent, whom he assured that he remained opposed to the Cabinet decision and that 'anything I can do behind the scenes to advise you, I will'. The Archives, Closed Section.

{p. 21} ing admiration for his intellect and 'heroic character', wrote to Trotsky: 'My husband and I were very sorry that you were not admitted into Great Britain. But I am afraid that anyone who preaches the permanence of revolution, that is carries the revolutionary war into the politics of other countries, will always be excluded from entering those other countries.'1 Historically, this was not quite true: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels spent most of their lives as refugees in England 'preaching the permanence of the revolution'. But times had changed, and Marx and Engels had not been as fortunate and unfortunate as to turn first from obscure political exiles into leaders of actual revolution and then back into exiles. Trotsky was not greatly surprised by the feeling he evoked. He refused to go about the business of visas more diplomatically, as the Pazes urged him to do; he would not pull strings behind the scenes and refrain from making public appeals. Even while he was seeking a refuge for himself, he was engaged in a battle of ideas. He knew that governments and ruling classes, in their fear of him, were paying him a tribute: they could not view him as a private supplicant; they had to treat him as an institution and as the embodiment of revolution militant.

Without waiting for the result of his many requests and the canvassing for visas, Trotsky settled down to work. There was an unusual bustle on Prinkipo in the very first weeks after his arrival. Reporters from all the continents rushed to interview him. Visitors and friends appeared - in a single month, in May, no fewer than seven came from France alone and stayed for weeks, even months. Young Trotskyists arrived to serve as bodyguards and secretaries. German and American publishers called to sign contracts for books and to offer advances on royalties. From everywhere dissident communists wrote to inquire about points of ideology and policy; and presently Trotsky, answering every question systematically and scrupulously filing away mountains of paper, found himself up to his eyes in a correspondence, amazing in volume, which

1 Beatrice Webb wrote on 30 April 1930 to thank Trotsky for a complimentary copy of My Life. She concluded the letter by offering the 'subversive propagandist' help with books, periodicals, and documents.

2 Magdeleine Paz to Trotsky on 14 June 1929. The Archives, Closed Section.

{p. 22} he was to carry on, regardless of circumstances, till the end of his life. He was getting ready the first issue of the Bulletin Oppozitsii, the little periodical - it began to appear in July - which was to be his main platform for the discussion of inner party affairs and his most important medium of contact with the Opposition in the Soviet Union. It was not easy to edit it in Buyuk Ada and to find Russian printers for it first in Paris and then in Berlin. At the same time he set out to organize his international following.

In addition, during the very first months of his stay on the island, he prepared a number of books for publication. He was anxious to acquaint the world with the 1927 Platform of the Joint Opposition, which was to see the light under the title The Real Situation in Russia. He assembled a collection of documents, suppressed in the Soviet Union, which were to make the volume on the Stalinist School of Falsication. In The Third International After Lenin he presented his 'Critique of the Draft Programme of the Third International' and the message he had addressed to the Sixth Congress from Alma Ata. Shortened and partly garbled versions of these texts had already appeared abroad, which was one more reason why Trotsky was eager to produce the full and authentic statements. Permanent Revolution was the small book, also written at Alma Ata, in which he restated and defended his theory in controversy with Radek.

The main literary fruit of the season was, however, My Life. Urged by Preobrazhensky and other friends to write his autobiography, he had, at Alma Ata, jotted down the opening parts narrating his childhood and youth; and on Prinkipo he hurriedly went on with the work, sending out chapters, as he completed them, to his German, French, and English translators. His progress was so rapid that one may wonder whether he had not drafted much more at Alma Ata than just the opening parts. Less than three months after he had come to Buyuk Ada he was already able to write to the Klyachkos in Vienna, an old Russian revolutionary family with whom he was friendly well before 1914: 'I am still completely immersed in this autobiography, and I do not know how to get out of it. I could have virtually completed it long ago, but an accursed pedantry does not allow me to complete it. I go on looking up references, checking dates, deleting one

{p. 23} thing and inserting another. More than once I have felt tempted to throw it all into the fireplace and to take to more serious work. But, alas, this is summer, there is no fire in the fireplaces, and, by the way, there are no fireplaces here either.'1 In May he had sent to Alexandra Ramm, his German translator, a large part of the work; a few weeks later she already had in hand the chapters on the civil war. But in July his 'accursed pedantry' pestered him again and he went back to rewrite the opening pages of the book. Early in the autumn the whole manuscript had already gone out and fragments were being serialized in newspapers. While he was still fastidiously correcting the German and the French translations, he was getting ready to start the History of the Russian Revolution, the first synopsis of which Alexandra Ramm received before the end of November.2

Amid this burst of activity he was never free from anxieties about children, grandchildren, and friends he had left 'beyond the frontier'. The sorrow of Nina's agony and death was still fresh with him when Zina's illness - Zina was his elder daughter from his first marriage - disturbed him. He inquired for news from her via Paris, where the Pazes kept in touch with his family in Moscow through a sympathizer on the staff of the Soviet Embassy. Zina suffered from consumption; and the death of her sister, the persecution of her father, the deportation to Siberia of Platon Volkov, her husband, and the difficulty of keeping herself and her two children alive, had strained her mental balance. She tried unsuccessfully to obtain official permission to leave the country and join her father. Trotsky supported her financially; and his well-wishers urged the Soviet Government to grant her an exit permit. Her mother, Alexandra Sokolovskaya, was still in Leningrad, though no one knew how long she would be allowed to stay there; and she took care of Nina's children - their father too, Man-Nevelson, was deported and imprisoned. This was not all: Lyova's wife and child were also left in Moscow, at fate's mercy.

1 The letter was written on I June 1929. The Archives, Closed Section.

2 Alexandra Ramm, of Russian origin, was the wife of Franz Pfemfert, editor of a radical weekly Aktion. Pfemfert had been expelled from the Communist party as an 'ultra-radical' after the third Congress of the Comintern, when Trotsky's influence was at its height; but he and his wife, disregarding political differences, retained to the end a warm friendship for Trotsky.

{p. 24} Thus, among Trotsky's next of kin no fewer than four families were broken up by the pitiless political conflict. And almost every week brought news about victimization of friends and untold miseries, illnesses in prison, starvation, clashes with jailers, hunger strikes, suicides, and deaths. Trotsky did what he could to arouse protests, especially against the persecution of Rakovsky, until lately the best known and the most respected of Soviet Ambassadors in the West, who was dragged from one place of deportation to another and suffered heart attacks, and from whom there was no news for several months.

Trotsky's vitality got the better of anxiety, worry, and fatigue. He drowned his sorrows in tenacious work and in intercourse with friends and followers; and he sought relief from the strain of work in rowing and fishing in the sky-coloured waters of the Marmara. Even while he rested he was unable to bring his energy to a standstill; he had to expend it in strenuous exertion all the time. As at Alma Ata his fishing was still a matter of elaborate expeditions with heavy boats, stones, and dragnets. He would go out for long trips, accompanied by two Turkish fishermen who gradually became part of the household; and with them he toiled, dragged the nets and stones, and carried back loads of fish. (Eastman, who found Trotsky's 'idea of relaxation' disagreeable, wondered 'if that is the mood in which he will go fishing - intense, speedy, systematic, organized for success, much as he went to Kazan to defeat the White Armies'.1) He was unable to use his strength, physical or mental, sparingly; and even chronic ill-health did not seem to impair his sinewy agility. Sometimes he sailed out by himself and, to the alarm of his family and secretaries, disappeared for long periods. A follower who arrived at such a moment wondered whether Trotsky was not afraid that the G.P.U. might lay a trap for him out at sea. Trotsky replied somewhat fatalistically that the G.P.U. were so powerful that once they decided to destroy him he would be helpless anyhow. In the meantime he saw no reason why he should become his own jailer and deny hinself the little freedom left to him, and the colour and taste of life.2

1 Eastman, loc. cit.

2 M. Parijanine describes vividly a fishing escapade with Trotsky far in the waters of Asia Minor: '... he was bent on getting his trophy ... one could sense his secret happiness ... he is mastering the element.' At nightfall they were caught

{p. 25} The misgivings with which he had arrived in Turkey were somewhat allayed. The Turks behaved correctly, even helpfully. Kemal Pasha was as good as his word, though Trotsky was still incredulous. The police guards, placed at the gates of the villa, attached themselves so much to their ward that they also became part of the household, running errands, and helping in domestic chores. The White emigres made no attempt to penetrate behind the high fences and hedges. Even the G.P.U. seemed remote and uninterested. This appearance, however, was deceptive: the G.P.U. were anything but aloof. All too often one of their agents, posing as an ardent follower, slipped into Trotsky's entourage as secretary or bodyguard. 'A Latvian Franck stayed at Prinkipo for five months', writes Natalya. 'Later we learned that he was an informer of the Russian Secret.Service, just like one Sobolevicius, also a Latvian, who came to us for a short stay only (his brother Roman Well acted as agent provocateur in Opposition circles in Paris and central Europe ...).'1 The trouble was that not all those who were exposed as agents provocateurs necessarily acted that part, whereas the most dangerous spies were never detected. Sobolevicius, for instance, thirty years later imprisoned in the United States as a Soviet agent, confessed that he had indeed spied on Trotsky during the Prinkipo period.2

{footnote continued from p. 24} by a great storm. The boat was very nearly overwhelmed; the Turkish gendarme accompanying them was crying with fear; and Trotsky took the oars and struggled vigorously against the tide. Such was his calm, concern for companions, and humour that Parijanine thought of 'Don't fear ... thou hast Caesar and his fortunes with thee': They found refuge in an empty hut on a deserted little island. Next morning, left without food, they shot two rabbits. Parijanine, having only wounded his rabbit, killed it off. 'This is not the hunter's way,' Trotsky said, 'one doesn't kill a wounded animal.' In the meantime the Turkish authorities had begun a search; and some peasants came to the rescue. Trotsky received the help with self-irony, recalling Shchedrin's story about two Russian generals lost in an unknown land and unable to procure the barest necessities of life. 'Ah,' sighs one of them, 'if only we could find a mouzhik here !' 'And lo, the mouzhik appears at once; and in a moment he has done all that was needed'. 'A Leon Trotsky', Les Humbles, May-June 1934.

1 V. Serge, Vie et Mort de rotsky, pp. 201-2.

2 See Hearing before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act, etc. United States Senate, 21 November 1957, pp. 4875-6, where Sobolevicius appears under the name of Jack Soble. In his correspondence with Trotsky he used the cover name Senin. His brother Dr. Soblen, also condemned, fled from the U.S.A. to Israel in 1962; but was denied refuge there. Being returned to the United States, via England, he committed two attempts on his life and died in London.

{p. 26} Yet his whole correspondence with Trotsky and the circumstances of their break throw doubt on the veracity of this part of his confession. Sobolevicius himself broke with Trotsky after he had openly and repeatedly expressed important political disagreements, which was not the manner in which an agent provocateur would behave. Trotsky denounced him in the end as a Stalinist, but did not believe that he was an agent provocateur. Whatever the truth, both Sobolevicius and his brother enjoyed Trotsky's almost unqualified confidence during the first three Prinkipo years. They were no novices to Trotskyist circles. Sobolevicius had been in Russia as correspondent of the left Marxist Saechsische Arbeiterzeitung, and there he joined the Trotskyist Opposition in 1927. Both he and his brother were later not only extremely active in France and Germany, they also supplied Trotsky with much useful information and with reference materials for his books; they helped him to publish the Bulleten Oppozitsii; and through their hands went much of his clandestine correspondence with the Soviet Union, codes, chemically written letters, cover addresses, etc. 1

In an underground organization it is hardly ever possible to keep out the agent provocateur altogether. The organization is invariably the stool-pigeon's target; and it is just as easy to err on the side of too much suspicion, which may paralyse the entire organization, as on the side of too little vigilance. What made matters worse for Trotsky was that only very few of his western followers were familiar with the Russian language and background, and so he was unduly dependent on the few that were. His work would have been almost impossible without Lyova's assistance. But this was not enough; and Trotsky accepted his son's sacrifice with uneasiness, for it was a sacrifice on the part of a man in his early twenties to condemn himself to a hermit-like existence on Prinkipo. So Trotsky was all too often on the look-out for a Russian secretary, and this made it easier for the stool-pigeon to sneak in. Occasionally friends forestalled trouble with a timely warning. Thus, early in 1930 Valentine Olberg, of Russian-Menshevik parentage, posing as a Trotskyist, tried hard to obtain access to Prinkipo as a secre-

1 The correspondence between Trotsky, Soboleviciw, and his brother R. Well r. Soblen) fills two files in the Closed Section of The Archives.

{p. 27} tary. But from Berlin Franz Pfemfert and Alexandra Ramm, suspicious of the applicant, informed Trotsky of their fears and Olberg was turned away - in 1936 he was to appear as defendant and witness against Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev in the first of the great Moscow trials.1 Such timely warnings were all too rare, however; and in years to come the shadowy figure of the agent provocateur was to follow Trotsky like a curse.

Trotsky's financial circumstances during the Prinkipo period were much easier than he had expected. His literary earnings were large, life on the island was cheap, and his and the family's needs were extremely modest. As the household increased, with secretaries and long-staying guests always around, and as the correspondence became almost as voluminous as that of a minor government department, the expenses rose to 12,000 and even 15,000 American dollars per year.2 A wide international readership assured Trotsky of correspondingly high fees and royalties. For his first articles written in Constantinople he received 1O,OOO dollars, of which he put aside 6,000 as a publication fund for the Bulletin Oppozitsii and French and even American Trotskyist papers. Later in the year he received considerable advances on the various editions of My Life, 7,000 dollars on the American edition alone. In 1932 the Saturday Evening Post paid 45,000 dollars for the serialization of the History of the Russian Revolution.3 When he left the Soviet Consulate in Constantinople, Trotsky borrowed 20,000 French francs from Maurice Paz. A year later he repaid the debt and had no need to borrow any more. When in May 1929 Paz inquired whether he was not in any difficulties, Trotsky

1Pfemfert's correspondence with Trotsky, April 1930, ibid. Olberg was a member of the Reichsleitung of the German Opposition. He aroused suspicion by his insistent inquiries about Trotsky's contacts with followers in the Soviet Union. (See also the correspondence between Olberg and Lev Sedov.) Whether he was an agent-provocateur in 1930 or became one later is, as in the case of Sobolevicius, not definitely established. After the rise of Nazism, in 1933-4, Olberg is said to have lived in dire poverty as a politlcal emigre in Czechoslovakia. He may, of course, have acted as a Stalinist stool-pigeon for 'ideological' reasons, without receiving any reward. He was a defendant and one of the Prosecution's chief witnesses in Zinoviev's trial in 1936; and was sentenced to death.

2 Eastman, op. cit.

3 These data are drawn from Trotsky's accounts and correspondence with his publishers and literary agents. he Archives, Closed Section.

{p. 28} answered that far from this being the case he could now afford to assist financially his political friends in the West. This, as his correspondence and preserved accounts show, he did with an unstinting hand, on which some of the recipients presently came rather unbecomingly to rely.

Long before their defeat Trotsky, Zinoviev, and even Shlyapnikov had made attempts at organizing their followers in foreign Communist parties. These efforts were not al together unsuccessful at first, despite excommunications and expulsions.1 The tactical manaeuvres and retreats, however, of the Russian Opposition disorientated communists abroad as strongly as Stalinist reprisals intimidated them. The final capitulation of Zinoviev's faction demoralized its foreign associates. Trotsky's reverses and deportation had not had quite the same effect. In the eyes of communists not yet fully prepared to submit to Stalinist dictates, his moral authority stood as high as ever; and the legend which surrounded his name, the legend of indomitable militancy and victory, was enriched with its new note of martyrdom. Yet the Comintern had already stigmatized Trotskyism with so much brutality and was so ferociously stamping it out from foreign sections that no communist could hope to gain any advantage by embracing the heresy; and few were those prepared to follow the martyr on his pat From Prinkipo, Trotsky set out to rally anew his supporters past and present. That he had no power to share with them did not in his eyes render the undertaking hopeless - this made it in a way even more attractive. Knowing that self-seekers ' and bureaucrats would not respond, he appealed only to the thoughtful and disinterested. Had not the strength of a revolutionary organization always consisted in the depth of the conviction held by its members and in their devotion rather than in their numbers? At the turn of the decade Stalin's mastery of the Comintern was still superficial. Almost anyone who spent

1 In a letter written to Sobolevicius and Well on 4 November 1929, Trotsky maintamed that the German Lenin6und carried on its activities for money which its leadels had received from Pyatakov before the latter's capitulation. The scale of these activitles was so modest that quite a small amount of money would have enabled them to carry on.

{p. 29} those years in the Communist party can relate from experience the bewilderment and the reluctance with which cadres and rankers alike began to conform to the new orthodoxy consecrated in Moscow. Underneath the conformity, still only skin deep, there was malaise, incredulity, and restiveness; and there were old Marxist habits of thought and uneasy consciences, to which Trotsky's fate was a constant challenge. The good party man considered it his supreme duty to practise solidarity with the Russian revolution; and so he could not take it upon himself to contradict the men who now ruled Moscow, who spoke with the voice of the revolution, and who insisted that the foreign communist should, at committees and cells, vote for resolutions condemning Trotskyism. The party man voted as he was required, but the whole 'campaign' remained to him a sad puzzle. The venom with which it was pursued vaguely offended him. He was unable to discern its motive. And sometimes he wondered why he should be required to add his own modest endorsement to the awe-inspiring anathemas pronounced from so far above. Working-class members, except for the very young and uninformed, recalled the days of Trotsky's glory, his resounding assaults on world capitalism, and his fiery manifestoes that had stirred so many of them and even brought some of them into the ranks. The change in the party's attitude towards the man whom they remembered as Lenin's closest companion seemed incomprehensible. Yet there was little or nothing they could do about it. Here and there a few men disgusted by this or that manipulation of the 'party line' renounced membership; but most reflected that they should not perhaps be unduly concerned over what looked like a feud among the big chiefs, that Russia was anyhow far away and difficult to understand, but that their own class enemies were near at home, and against them the Communist party fought reliably and bravely. They continued to give their allegiance to the party, but they did so despite and not because of Stalinism; and for some time yet they shrugged with embarrassment when they heard party officialdom rail against Trotsky, the 'traitor and the counter-revolutionary'.

Trotsky's hold on the imagination of the left and radical intelligentsia was still immense. When Bernard Shaw wrote of him as becoming anew the 'inspirer and hero of all the militants

{p. 30} of the extreme left of every country' he was not as far from the truth as may have seemed later.1 We have seen the impressive list of the celebrities of radical England who spoke up in Trotsky's defence against their own government. (True, the British Communist party was less 'infected with Trotskyism' than any other; yet in Trotsky's Prinkipo correspondence one finds a thick file of extremely friendly and revealing letters he exchanged with an English communist writer, later notorous for Stalinist orthodoxy.) Among European and American poets, novelists, and artists, famous or about to gain fame Andre Breton and others of the Surrealist school, Henrietta Roland Holst, the Dutch poetess, Panait Istrati, whose meteoric and sad literary career was then at its zenith, Diego Rivera Edmund Wilson, the young Andre Malraux, and many others, were under his spell. 'Trotsky continued to haunt the communist intellectuals', says a historian of American communism; and by way of illustration he quotes Michael Gold the well-known communist writer and editor who even after the first anathemas on Trotsky 'could not resist extolling Trotsky [in the New Masses] as "almost as universal as Leonardo da Vinci. As late as 1930 Gold wrote, among some tritelyderogatory remarks, that "'Trotsky is now an immortal part of the great Russian Revolution ... one of the permanent legends of humanity, like Savonarola or Danton".'2 'The unbounded admiration for Trotsky was not confined to Michael Gold', testifies another American communist man of letters, 'it marked all the extreme radicals of this country who followed Russian events. ...'

In most European countries groups of expelled Trotskyists

1 Shaw had many times expressed his admiration for Trotsky with unusual ardour. In one of his letters to Molly Tompkins, for instance, he wrote:

'Yesterday ... I had with me a bundle of reports of the speeches of our great party leaders, and a half-crown book by Trotsky. ... For sheer coarse bloodymindedness it would be hard to beat the orations of Birkenhead, Lloyd George and Churchill. For good sense, unaffected frankness, and educated mental capacity give me Trotsky all the time. To turn from the presidential campaign in your country and the general election here to his surveys of the position is to move to another planet.' G. B. Shaw, To a Young Actress, p. 78. ...

{p. 31} and Zinovievists, led by a few of the founders of the Communist International, were active. It was only five years or so since the Central Committee of the French party had unanimously protested to Moscow against the anti-Trotskyist campaign. Between 1924 and 1929 Alfred Rosmer, Boris Souvarine, and others went on contending against Stalinism.1 Trotskyist sympathies were alive in the revolutionary-syndicalist circle of Pierre Monatte which had formed one of the constituent elements of the French Communist party but had since become estranged from it. The Zinovievists kept their own caterZe. In Germany there were the Leninbund and also the Wedding Opposition (so called after Berlin's largest working-class district); but there Zinovievism, as represented by Arkadii Maslov and Ruth Fisher, rather than Trotskyism set the tone of the dissidence. Two important Italian communist leaders, Antonio Gramsci and Amadeo Bordiga, both Mussolini's prisoners, had declaed themselves against Stalin: Gramsci had sent his declaration to Moscow, where Togliatti, the party's representative with the Comintern Executive, suppressed it. 2 Andres Nin, the most able exponent of Marxism

1 The Prophet Unarmed, pp. 140-l. In 1926 Pyatakov, then on the staff of the Soviet Embassy in Paris, sought to unite the various anti-Stalinist elements expelled from the French Communist party. In Moscow, Trotsky and Zinoviev were forming the Joint Opposition, and Pyatakov's task was to create a French counterpart to it. He held meetings with Rosmer, A. Dunois, Loriot, Souvarine, Monatte, Paz, and others, and initiated the publication of Contre k Courant. But Rosmer and Monatte, hostile towards any idea of a 'bloc' between Trotskyists and Zinovievists, refused to co-operate; and so Gntre le Courant began to appear as t e French organ of the Joint Opposition, under the editorship of the Pazes and Loriot. Rosmer and Monatte continued their a'nti-Stalinist activities independently.

2 Bulletin Oppozitsii, nos. 17-18, 1930, see also Rosmer's letter to Trotsky of 10 April 1930 in The Archives, Closed Section. About this time three members of the Italian Politbureau, Ravazzoli, Leonetti, and Tresso, went over to the Trotskyist Opposition. They were friends and followers of Gramsci; and one of them informed Rosmer about Gramsci's letter to Togliatti and its suppression. In 1961 I asked Togliatti publicly, in the Italian Press, to explain the matter. He answered through a friend of his that Gramsci had indeed urged him in 1926 not to involve Italian communism in the Russian inner-party struggle. (Togliatti had backed Bukharin and Stalin against Trotsky.) Togliatti maintains that Gramsci's letter arrived in Moscow during an inner-party truce; and so, after consulting Bukharin, he decided that it had no relevance to the current situation. When the struggle between Stalin and Trotsky was resumed, the Comintern and the Italian party were nevertheless kept in ignorance about Gramsci's attitude. This attitude accounted for the oblivion to which Gramsci's memory was consigned during most of the Stalin era. Only in the early 1950s were Gramsci's merits 'rediscovered', and Togliatti initiated something like a posthumous Gramsci cult in the Italian party.


(9) Britain rejected Trotsky's application to avoid alienating Stalin

Fear of Stalin blocked Trotsky's move to U.K.

The Russia Journal

Sun, 2000-03-05 22:00 - admin

Issue Number: 51

Author: By ALAN TRAVIS / The Guardian

Published: 2000-03-06

LONDON ­ Britain refused asylum to Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky in 1929 because the Labor government feared alienating Joseph Stalin, de facto dictator of the Soviet Union, according to cabinet papers released by the public record office.

Trotsky tried four times to come to Britain after he was expelled from Moscow, including asking to live in the Channel Islands in 1934.

The top home office civil servant advised the cabinet on that occasion he would need watching as well as protecting: "He has failed to impose his ideas on the [ruling] politburo in Russia, but he has not abandoned them; the idea of Trotsky in quiet retirement is comic."

His request stirred parts of the labor movement and such figures as H.G. Wells, the economists Sidney and Beatrice Webb, J.M. Keynes, C.P. Scott (editor of the Manchester Guardian), G.B. Shaw, Clem Attlee and James Maxton.

Trotsky was famous as the man who led the Red Army to victory in the civil war, and as an eloquent Marxist author, but he was outmaneuvered by Stalin on Lenin's death and his supporters were persecuted or liquidated. Stalin was to succeed in having him assassinated in 1941.

Arguing for asylum, Wells said Trotsky had a "trenchant literary power" and his extraordinary career gave him a "hold on the public imagination;" living in Britain with "a constitution that has not broken down and an army that has not broken up" would help change Trotsky's "present state of mind." Wells reminded ministers that England was the "home of so-called dangerous opinions as well as of lost causes."

Trotsky ­ dubbed The Man Whom Nobody Wants ­ first applied after Labor's election win in 1929. The Manchester Guardian, as go-between for Trotsky's friend, Mme. Paz (Magdelaine Marx), and the home secretary, J.R. Clynes, passed on undertakings that he would not be politically active.

Sidney Webb told the home secretary he had advised Trotsky to apply privately so ministers could consider the matter: "But he appears carried away by Labor's electoral success ­and characteristically is so addicted to posturing before the whole world ­ that he forgot to heed my warning."

The government gave no public reasons for rejecting Trotsky, causing protests from unions and Labor members of parliament.

(10) Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Unarmed Trotsky: 1921-1929

(Oxford University Press, London, 1970)

{p. 258} Jews were, in fact, conspicuous among the Opposition although they were there together with the flower of the non-

{p. 259} Jewish intelligentsia and workers. Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Sokolnikov, Radek, were all Jews. (There were, on the other hand, very few Jews among the Stalinists, and fewer still among the Bukharinists.) Thoroughly 'assimilated' and Russified though they were, and hostile to the Mosaic as to any other religion, and to Zionism, they were still marked by that 'Jewishness' which is the quintessence of the urban way of life in all its modernity, progressiveness, restlessness, and one-sidedness. To be sure, the allegations that they were politically hostile to the muzhik were false and, in Stalin's mouth, though perhaps not in Bukharin's, insincere. But the Bolsheviks of Jewish origin were least of all inclined to idealize rural Russia in her primitivism and barbarity and to drag along at a 'snail's pace' the native peasant cart. They were in a sense the 'rootless cosmopolitans' on whom Stalin was to turn his wrath openly in his old age. Not for them was the ideal of socialism in a single country. As a rule the progressive or revolutionary Jew, brought up on the border lines of various religions and national cultures, whether Spinoza or Marx, Heine or Freud, Rosa Luxemburg or Trotsky, was particularly apt to transcend in his mind religious and national limitations and to identify himself with a universal view of mankind. He was therefore also peculiarly vulnerable whenever either religious fanaticisms or nationalist emotions ran high. Spinoza and Marx, Heine and Freud, Rosa Luxemburg and Trotsky, all suffered excommunication, exile, and moral or physical assassination; and the writings of all were burned at the stake.


Imagine a book calling Hitler, not Trotsky, "The Prophet". Imagine it on sale in the bookshops, and its author published by The Economist (even made its Chief commentator on Europe) and the BBC, favourably reviewed in the London Review of Books, and an annual Memorial Lecture in his name presented at the London School of Economics.

Isaac Deutscher wrote, in his book Russia After Stalin, that the Bolshevik Government, in its first years, was run by "emigres had lived many years in the West", who looked down on Russian "backwardness" and pursued "internationalist" politics:

"... they were Marxists in partibus infidelium, West European revolutionaries acting against a non-congenial Oriental background, which ... tried to impose its tyranny upon them. Only revolution in the West could relieve them from that tyranny ... No sooner had Bolshevism mentally withdrawn into its national shell than this attitude became untenable. The party of the revolution had to stoop to its semi-Asiatic environment. It had to cut itself loose from the specifically Western tradition of Marxism ... " beria.html.

The other side of Trotsky: worst.html.

Red Symphony, by Dr. J. Landowsky, claims to be the record of the secret interrogation of Trotsky's chief supporter in the USSR, Christian Rakovsky, prior to his being tried in the Moscow Trials.

In Red Symphony, Rakovsky admits to being part of an Illuminati conspiracy whose heads are bankers, who are promoting the "convergence" of Communism and Capitalism, towards "One World" (convergence.html). He says that they partly funded Hitler's rise, hoping that he would go to war with the USSR and bring Stalin down, after which they would restore their man, Trotsky, to power. If the report is genuine, Stalin would have access to it; this could be why he had Trotsky killed: red-symphony.html.

The Jewish identities of Lenin and Trotsky: lenin-trotsky.html.

The early Soviet Union - after Lenin and Trotsky, but before Stalin's ascendancy: soviet-union-early.html.

Communism has "fallen", yet it seems to reign in our universities and courts. Open Borders, Gay Marriage, Political Correctness ... these are the signs. The secret: what has fallen is Stalinism; that's all. In its place, the New Left largely dominates our culture. Its perceptions have been largely shaped by Isaac Deutscher: new-left.html.

Back to the Zionism/Communism index: zioncom.html.

Write to me at contact.html.