My Life, by Leon Trotsky

Chapter 42

The Last Period Of Struggle Within the Party

In January, 1925, I was relieved of my duties as the People’s Commissary of War. This decision had been carefully prepared for by the preceding struggle. Next to the traditions of the October Revolution, the epigones feared most the traditions of the civil war and my connection with the army. I yielded up the military post without a fight, with even a sense of relief, since I was thereby wresting from my opponents’ hands their weapon of insinuation concerning my military intentions. The epigones had first invented these fantasies to justify their acts, and then began almost to believe them. Ever since 1921, my personal interests had shifted to another field. The war was over; the army had been reduced from five million, three hundred thousand men to six hundred thousand. The military work was entering bureaucratic channels. Economic problems were of first importance in the country; from the moment the war ended they had absorbed my time and attention to a far greater extent than military matters.

I was made chairman of the Concessions Committee in May, 1925, head of the electro-technical board, and chairman of the scientific-technical board of industry. These three posts were in no way connected. Their selection was made behind my back and determined by certain specific considerations: to isolate me from the party, to submerge me in routine, to put me under special control, and so on. Nevertheless I made an honest attempt to work in harmony with the new arrangements. When I began my work in three institutions utterly unfamiliar to me, I naturally plunged in up to my ears. I was specially interested in the institutes of technical science which had developed in Soviet Russia on quite a large scale, because of the centralized character of industry. I assiduously visited many laboratories, watched experiments with great interest, listened to explanations given by the foremost scientists, in my spare time studied textbooks on chemistry and hydro-dynamics, and felt that I was half-administrator and half-student. Not for nothing had I planned in my youth to take university courses in physics and mathematics. I was taking a rest from politics and concentrating on questions of natural science and technology. As head of the electro-technical board, I visited power stations in the process of construction, and made a trip to the Dnieper, where preparatory work on a large scale was under way in the construction of a hydro-electric power station. Two boatmen took me down the rapids in a fishing-boat, along the ancient route of the Zaporozhtzi-Cossacks. This adventure of course had merely a sporting interest. But I became deeply interested in the Dnieper enterprise, both from an economic and a technical point of view. I organized a body of American experts, later augmented by German experts, to safeguard the power station from defective estimates, and tried to relate my new work not only to current economic requirements but also to the fundamental problems of socialism. In my struggle against the stolid national approach to economic questions (“independence” through self-contained isolation) I advanced the project of developing a system of comparative indices of the Soviet and the world economy. This was the result of our need for correct orientation in the world market, being intended on its part to serve the needs of the import and export trade and of the policy of concessions. In essence, the project of comparative indices which grew inevitably from a recognition of the productive forces of the world as dominating those of a single nation, implied an attack on the reactionary theory of “socialism in a single country.”

I made public reports on matters connected with my new activity, and published books and pamphlets. My opponents neither could nor cared to accept battle on this ground. They summed up the situation in the formula: Trotsky has created a new battlefield for himself. The electro-technical board and the scientific institutions began now to worry them almost as much as the war department and the Red Army previously had. The Stalin apparatus followed on my heels. Every practical step that I took gave rise to a complicated intrigue behind the scenes; every theoretical conclusion fed the ignorant myth of “Trotskyism.” My practical work was performed under impossible conditions. It is no exaggeration to say that much of the creative activity of Stalin and of his assistant Molotov was devoted to organizing direct sabotage around me. It became practically impossible for the institutions under my direction to obtain the necessary wherewithal. People working there began to fear for their futures, or at least for their careers.

My attempt to win a political holiday for myself was patently a failure. The epigones could not stop half-way. They were too afraid of what they had already done. Yesterday’s slander weighed heavily on them, demanding double treachery today. I ended by insisting on being relieved of the electro-technical board and the institutions of technical science. The chief con cessions committee did not provide the same scope for intrigue, since the fate of each concession was decided in the Politbureau.

Meanwhile, party affairs had reached a new crisis. In the first period of the struggle, a trio had been formed to oppose me, but it was far from being a unit. In theoretical and political respects, both Zinoviev and Kamenev were probably superior to Stalin. But they both lacked that little thing called character. Their international outlook, wider than Stalin’s, which they acquired under Lenin in foreign exile, did not make their position any stronger; on the contrary, it weakened it. The political tendency was toward a self-contained national development, and the old formula of Russian patriotism, “We’ll bury the enemy under a shower of our caps,” was now assiduously being translated into the new socialist language. Zinoviev’s and Kamenev’s attempt to uphold the international viewpoint, if only to a limited degree, turned them into “Trotskyists” of the second order in the eyes of the bureaucracy. This led them to wage their campaign against me with even more fury, so that they might win greater confidence from the apparatus. But these efforts were also vain. The apparatus was rapidly discovering that Stalin was flesh of its flesh. Zinoviev and Kamenev soon found themselves in hostile opposition to Stalin; when they tried to transfer the dispute from the trio to the Central Committee, they discovered that Stalin had a solid majority there.

Kamenev was considered the official leader of Moscow. But after the routing with Kamenev’s participation of the Moscow party organization in 1923, when the party came out in its majority to support the opposition, the rank-and-file of the Moscow communists maintained a grim silence. With the first attempts to resist Stalin, Kamenev found himself suspended in air. The situation in Leningrad 1 was different. The Leningrad communists were protected from the opposition of 1923 by the heavy lid of Zinoviev’s apparatus. But now their turn came. The Leningrad workers were aroused by the political trend in favor of the rich peasants — the so-called kulaks — and a policy aimed at one-country socialism. The class protest of the workers coincided with the high-official opposition of Zinoviev. Thus a new opposition came into existence, and one of its members in the first stages was Nadyezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya. To every one’s utter surprise, their own most of all, Zinoviev and Kamenev found themselves obliged to repeat word for word the criticisms by the opposition, and soon they were listed as being in the camp of the “Trotskyists.” It is little wonder that in our circle, closer relations with Zinoviev and Kamenev seemed, to say the least, paradoxical. There were among the oppositionists many who opposed such a bloc. There were even some, though only a few, who thought it possible to form a bloc with Stalin against Zinoviev and Kamenev. One of my closest friends, Mrachkovsky, an old revolutionary and one of the finest commanders in the civil war, expressed himself as opposed to a bloc with anyone and gave a classic explanation of his stand: “Stalin will deceive, and Zinoviev will sneak away.” But such questions are finally decided not by psychological but by political considerations. Zinoviev and Kamenev openly avowed that the “Trotskyists” had been right in the struggle against them ever since 1923. They accepted the basic principles of our platform. In such circumstances, it was impossible not to form a bloc with them, especially since thousands of revolutionary Leningrad workers were behind them.

I had not met Kamenev outside the official meetings for three years, that is, since the night on the eve of his trip to Georgia, when he promised to uphold the stand taken by Lenin and me, but, having learned of Lenin’s grave condition, went over to Stalin. At our very first meeting, Kamenev declared: “It is enough for you and Zinoviev to appear on the same platform, and the party will find its true Central Committee.” I could not help laughing at such bureaucratic optimism. Kamenev obviously underestimated the disintegrating effect on the party of the three years’ activity of the trio. I pointed it out to him, without the slightest concession to his feelings. The revolutionary ebb-tide that had begun at the end of 1923, that is, after the defeat of the revolutionary movement in Germany, had assumed international proportions. In Russia, the reaction against October was proceeding at full speed. The party apparatus more and more was lining itself up with the right wing. Under such conditions, it would have been childish to think that all we need do was join hands and victory would drop at our feet like a ripe fruit. “We must aim far ahead,” I repeated dozens of times to Kamenev and Zinoviev. “We must prepare for a long and serious struggle.” On the spur of the moment, my new allies accepted this formula bravely. But they didn’t last long; they were fading daily and hourly. Mrachkovsky proved right in his appraisal of their personalities. Zinoviev did sneak away after all, but he was far from being followed by all of his supporters. At any rate, his double about-face inflicted an incurable wound on the legend of “Trotskyism.”

In the spring of 1926, my wife and I made a trip to Berlin. The Moscow physicians, at a loss to explain the continuance of my high temperature, and unwilling to shoulder the entire responsibility, had been urging me for some time to take a trip abroad. I was equally anxious to find a way out of the impasse, for my high temperature paralyzed me at the most critical moments, and acted as my opponents’ most steadfast ally. The matter of my visit abroad was taken up at the Politbureau, which stated that it regarded my trip as extremely dangerous in view of the information it had and the general political situation, but that it left the final decision to me. The statement was accompanied by a note of reference from the GPU indicating the inadmissibility of my trip. The Politbureau undoubtedly feared that in the event of any unpleasant accident to me while abroad, the party would hold it responsible. The idea of my enforced exile abroad, and in Constantinople at that, had not yet dawned with in the policeman’s skull of Stalin. It is possible that the Politbureau was also apprehensive of my taking action abroad to consolidate the foreign opposition. Nevertheless, after consulting my friends, I decided to go.

Arrangements with the German embassy were completed with out difficulty, and about the middle of April my wife and I left with a diplomatic passport in the name of Kuzmyenko, a member of the Ukrainian collegium of the commissariat of education. We were accompanied by my secretary, Syermuks, by the former commander of my train, and by a representative of the GPU. Zinoviev and Kamenev parted from me with a show of real feeling; they did not like the prospect of remaining eye-to-eye with Stalin.

In the years before the war, I had known Hohenzollern Berlin very well. It had then its own peculiar physiognomy, which no one could call pleasant but which many thought imposing. Berlin has changed. It has now no physiognomy at all, at least none that I could discover. The city was slowly recovering from a long and serious disease whose course had been accompanied by many surgical operations. The inflation was already over, but the stabilized mark served only as a means of measuring the general anæmia. In the streets, in the shops, on the faces of the pedestrians, one sensed the impoverishment, and also that impatient, often avid desire to rise again. The German thoroughness and cleanliness during the hard years of war, of the defeat and the Versailles brigandage, had been swallowed up by dire poverty. The human ant-hill was stubbornly but joylessly restoring the passages, corridors, and storerooms crushed by the boot of war. In the rhythm of the streets, in the movements and gestures of the passers-by, one felt a tragic undercurrent of fatalism:

“Can’t be helped; life is an indefinite term at hard-labor; we must begin again at the beginning.”

For a few weeks I was under medical observation in a private clinic in Berlin. In search of the roots of the mysterious temperature, the doctors shunted me from one to another. Finally, a throat specialist advanced the hypothesis that the source was my tonsils, and advised having them removed in any case. The diagnosticians and therapeutists hesitated, being middle-aged medical base men. But the surgeon, with the experience of the war behind him, treated them with a devastating contempt. He implied that tonsils were now removed as easily as shaving off a moustache. I was obliged to consent.

The assistants were getting ready to tie my hands, but the surgeon decided to accept moral guarantees. Behind his encouraging jocosity, I could feel the tension and controlled excitement. It was a most unpleasant sensation to lie on the table and choke in one’s own blood. The proceeding lasted from forty to fifty minutes. Everything went off well — if one overlooks the fact that the operation was apparently useless, as the temperature set in again some time later.

But my time in Berlin, at least that spent in the clinic, was not wasted. I immersed myself in the German press, from which I had been almost completely cut off ever since August, 1914. Every day I was provided with a score of German and a few foreign publications, and after reading them I would throw them on the floor. The specialists who visited me had to walk on a carpet of newspapers of all shades of political opinion. It was really my first opportunity to listen to the entire range of German republican politics. I must confess that I did not find any thing unexpected there. The republic as the foundling of the military debacle, the republicans as creatures of the Versailles compulsion, the Social Democrats as the executors of the November revolution which they themselves had smothered, Hindenburg as a democratic president — in general, it was just as I had imagined it. And yet it was very instructive to be able to view it at close range.

On May 1, my wife and I went out for a drive around the city in an automobile. We visited the principal districts, watched processions, read placards, listened to speeches, drove to the Alexanderplatz, and mingled with the crowd. I had seen many Mayday processions that were more imposing and more decorative, but it was long since I had been able to move about in a crowd without attracting anyone’s attention, feeling myself a part of the nameless whole, listening and observing. Only once did our companion say to me cautiously: “There they are selling your photographs.” But from those photographs no one would have recognized the member of the collegium of the commissariat of education, Kuzmyenko. In case these lines should meet the eyes of Count Westarp, of Hermann Müller, Stresemann 2, Count Reventlow, Hilferding, or of any others who opposed my admission into Germany, I think it necessary to inform them that I did not proclaim any reprehensible slogans, stick up any outrageous posters, that in general I was merely an observer waiting to undergo an operation a few days later.

We also attended the “wine festival” outside the city. Here were hordes of people, but in spite of the spring mood, enhanced by sun and wine, the gray shadow of past years lay over the merry-making, as well as over those who were trying to make merry. You had only to look closer and they all seemed like slowly recovering convalescents; their gaiety still cost them a great effort. We spent a few hours in the thick of the crowd, observed, talked, ate frankfurters from paper plates, and even drank beer, the very taste of which we had forgotten since 1917. I was recovering from the operation quickly, and was considering the date of our departure. At this point, an unexpected thing happened, which even today is still something of a puzzle to me. About a week before my intended departure, there appeared in the corridor of the clinic two gentlemen of that indefinite appearance which so definitely proclaims the police profession. Looking into the courtyard from the window, I discovered below me about half a dozen men like them, who, though differing somewhat among themselves, still resembled each other remarkably. I drew Krestinsky’s attention to it. A few minutes later, one of the assistant-doctors knocked on the door and excitedly announced — at the request of his chief — that I was in danger of an attempt on my life. “Not by the police, I hope?” I asked, pointing to the many agents. The doctor hazarded a suggestion that the police were there to prevent the attempt. Two or three minutes later a police-inspector (polizeirat) arrived and told Krestinsky that the police had actually received information about an attempt on my life, and had taken extraordinary protective measures. The entire clinic was agog. The nurses told each other and the patients that the clinic was harboring Trotsky, and because of that several bombs were going to be thrown at the building. The atmosphere created was little suited to a curative institution. I arranged with Krestinsky to go at once to the Soviet embassy. The street in front of the clinic was barricaded by the police. I was escorted by police motor-cars.

The official version of the episode was something like this: One of the German monarchists arrested in connection with a newly discovered conspiracy made a statement to the court examiner — or so it was alleged — that the Russian White Guards were arranging for an early attempt on the life of Trotsky, who was stated to be in Berlin. The German diplomacy, through which my trip had been arranged, had deliberately refrained from informing its police because of the considerable number of monarchists among the ranks. The police did not give much credence to the report of the arrested monarchist, but nevertheless checked up on his statement about my staying at the clinic. To their great amazement, the information proved correct. As inquiries had been made of the physicians as well, I received two simultaneous warnings — one from the assistant-doctor, the other from the police-inspector. Whether an attempt had really been planned, and whether the police really learned of my arrival through the arrested monarchist, are questions that even today I cannot answer.

But I suspect that the case was much simpler. One may assume that the diplomatic circles failed to keep the “secret,” and the police, hurt by the lack of confidence in them, decided to demonstrate, either to Stresemann or to me, that tonsils could not be removed without their aid. Whatever the explanation, the clinic was turned upside down, while under this mighty protection against my hypothetical enemies, I moved over to the embassy. Vague and feeble echoes of this story later found their way into the German press, but it seems that no one was inclined to believe them.

The days of my stay in Berlin coincided with certain important events in Europe: the general strike in England, and Pilsudski’s coup d’état in Poland. Both these occurrences greatly accentuated my disagreements with the epigones, and determined in advance the stormier development of our later struggle. A few words on that subject should be included here.

Stalin, Bukharin, and — in the first period — Zinoviev as well, saw the crowning achievement of their policy in the diplomatic bloc between the higher groups of the Soviet trades-unions and the General Council of the British trades-unions. In his provincial narrowness, Stalin imagined that Purcell and other trades-union leaders were ready or able, in a difficult moment, to lend support to the Soviet republic against the British bourgeoisie. As for the British union leaders, they believed, with some justification, that in view of the crisis in British capitalism and the increasing discontent of the masses, it would be politic for them to be covered on their left by means of an official but actually non-committal friendship with the leaders of the Soviet trades-unions. Both sides did a great deal of beating about the bush, for the most part avoiding calling things by their real names. A rotten policy has more than once been wrecked on great events. The general strike in England in May, 1926, proved to be a great event not only in English life, but also in the inner life of our party.

England’s fate after the war was a subject of absorbing interest. The radical change in her world position could not fail to bring about changes just as radical in the inner correlation of her forces. It was clear that even if Europe, including England, were to restore a certain social equilibrium for a more or less ex tended period, England herself could reach such an equilibrium only by means of a series of serious conflicts and shake-ups. I thought it probable that in England, of all places, the fight in the coal industry would lead to a general strike. From this I assumed that the essential contradiction between the old organizations of the working class and its new historical tasks would of course be revealed in the near future. During the winter and spring of 1925, while I was in the Caucasus, I wrote a book on this — Whither England? The book was aimed essentially at the official conception of the Politbureau, with its hope of an evolution to the left by the British General Council, and of a gradual and painless penetration of communism into the ranks of the British Labor Party and trades-unions. In part to avoid unnecessary complications, in part to check up on my opponents, I submitted the manuscript of the book to the Politbureau. Since it was a question of forecast, rather than of criticism after the fact, none of the members of the Politbureau ventured to express himself. The book passed safely by the censors and was published exactly as it had been written. A little later, it also appeared in English. The official leaders of British Socialism treated it as the fantasy of a foreigner who did not know British conditions, who could dream of transferring the “Russian” general strike to the soil of the British Isles. Such estimates could have been counted by the dozens, even by the hundreds, beginning with MacDonald himself, who in the political-banalities contest indisputably carried off first prize. But within a few months the strike of the coal miners became a general strike. I had not expected such an early confirmation of my forecast. If the general strike proved the rightness of the Marxist forecast against the home-made estimates of the British reformists, the behavior of the General Council during the general strike signified the collapse of Stalin’s hopes of Purcell. I eagerly gathered and collated in the clinic all the information about the course of the general strike and especially about the relations between the masses and their leaders. The thing that made my gorge rise was the nature of the articles in the Moscow Pravda. Its chief concern was to screen bankruptcy and save its face. This could be achieved only by a cynical distortion of the facts. There can be no greater proof of the intellectual downfall of a revolutionary politician than deception of the masses.

Upon my return to Moscow, I demanded an immediate breaking up of the bloc with the British General Council. Zinoviev, after the inevitable vacillation, sided with me. Radek was opposed. Stalin clung to the bloc, even to the semblance of one, for all he was worth. The British trades-unionists waited until their acute inner crisis was at an end, and then uncivilly kicked their generous but muddle-headed ally away.

Events just as significant were taking place in Poland at the same time. In frantic search for a way out, the petty bourgeoisie entered on a rebellion and raised Pilsudski on its shield. The leader of the communist party, Varski, decided that “a democratic dictatorship of the prôletariat and peasantry” was developing there before his very eyes, and called on the Communist party to support Pilsudski. I had known Varski for a long time. When Rosa Luxemburg was still alive, he was perhaps able to hold his place in the revolutionary ranks. Left alone, he was always a vacancy. In 1924, after great hesitation, he announced that at last he realized the evil of “Trotskyism,” that is, of the under-appreciation of the peasantry for the success of the democratic dictatorship. As a reward for his obedience, he was given the post of leader, and watched impatiently for an occasion for using the spurs that it had taken him so long to win. In May, 1926, he seized his opportunity, only to disgrace himself and spatter the flag of the party. He went unpunished, of course; the Stalin apparatus shielded him from the wrath of the Polish workers.

During 1926, the party struggle developed with increasing intensity. In the autumn, the opposition even made an open sortie at the meetings of the party locals. The apparatus counter attacked with fury. The struggle of ideas gave place to administrative mechanics: telephone summons of the party bureaucrats to attend the meetings of the workers’ locals, an accumulation of automobiles with hooting sirens in front of all the meetings, and a well-organized whistling and booing at the appearance of the oppositionists on the platform. The ruling faction exerted its pressure by a mechanical concentration of its forces, by threats and reprisals. Before the mass of the party had time to hear, grasp or say anything, they were afraid of the possibility of a split and a catastrophe. The opposition was obliged to beat a retreat. On October i6, we made a declaration announcing that although we considered our views just and reserved the right of fighting for them within the framework of the party, we renounced the use of activities that might engender the danger of a split. The declaration of October 16 was intended not for the apparatus but for the mass of the party. It was an expression of our desire to remain in the party and serve it further. Although the Stalinites began to break the truce the day after it was concluded, still we gained time. The winter of 1926-7 gave us a certain breathing-spell which allowed us to carry out a more thorough theoretical examination of many questions.

As early as the beginning of 1927, Zinoviev was ready to capitulate, if not all at once, at least gradually. But then came the staggering events in China. The criminal character of Stalin’s policy hit one in the eye. It postponed for a time the capitulation of Zinoviev and of all who followed him later.

The epigones’ leadership in China trampled on all the traditions of Bolshevism. The Chinese Communist party was forced against its will to join the bourgeois Kuomintang party and submit to its military discipline. The creating of Soviets was forbidden. The Communists were advised to hold the agrarian revolution in check, and to abstain from arming the workers without the permission of the bourgeoisie. Long before Chiang Kal-shek crushed the Shanghai workers and concentrated the power in the hands of a military clique, we issued warnings that such a consequence was inevitable. Since 1925, I had demanded the withdrawal of the communists from the Kuomintang. The policy of Stalin and Bukharin not only prepared for and facilitated the crushing of the revolution but, with the help of reprisals by the state apparatus, shielded the counter-revolutionary work of Chiang Kai-shek from our criticism. In April, 1927, at the party meeting in the Hall of Columns, Stalin still defended the policy of coalition with Chiang Kai-shek and called for confidence in him. Five or six days later, Chiang Kai-shek drowned the Shanghai workers and the Communist party in blood.

A wave of excitement swept over the party. The opposition raised its head. And disregarding all rules of “conspiratzia” — and at that time, in Moscow, we were already obliged to defend the Chinese workers against Chiang Kal-shek by using the methods of “conspiratzia” — the opposionists came to me by scores in the offices of the Chief Concessions Committee. Many younger comrades thought the patent bankruptcy of Stalin’s policy was bound to bring the triumph of the opposition nearer. During the first days after the coup d’état by Chiang Kai-shek, I was obliged to pour many a bucket of cold water over the hot heads of my young friends — and over some not so young. I tried to show them that the opposition could not rise on the defeat of the Chinese Revolution. The fact that our forecast had proved correct might attract one thousand, five thousand, or even ten thousand new supporters to us. But for the millions, the significant thing was not our forecast, but the fact of the crushing of the Chinese prôletariat. After the defeat of the German Revolution in 1923, after the breakdown of the English general strike in 1925, the new disaster in China would only intensify the disappointment of the masses in the international revolution. And it was this same disappointment that served as the chief psychologic source for Stalin’s policy of national-reformism.

In a very short time, it was apparent that as a faction we had undoubtedly gained in strength — that is to say, we had grown more united intellectually, and stronger in numbers. But the umbilical cord that connected us with power was cut by the sword of Chiang Kai-shek. His finally discredited Russian ally, Stalin, now had only to complete the crushing of the Shanghai workers by routing the opposition within the party. The backbone of the opposition was a group of old revolutionaries. But we were no longer alone. Hundreds and thousands of revolutionaries of the new generation were grouped about us. This new generation had been awakened by the October Revolution; it had taken part in the civil war; it stood at attention before the great authority of Lenin’s Central Committee. Only since 1923 had it begun to think independently, to criticise, to apply Marxist methods to new turns in the development, and, what is still more difficult, to learn to shoulder the responsibility of revolutionary initiative. At present there are thousands of such young revolutionaries who are augmenting their political experience by studying theory in the prisons and the exile of the Stalin régime.

The leading group of the opposition faced this finale with its eyes wide open. We realized only too clearly that we could make our ideas the common property of the new generation not by diplomacy and evasions but only by an open struggle which shirked none of the practical consequences. We went to meet the inevitable debacle, confident, however, that we were paving the way for the triumph of our ideas in a more distant future.

The pressure of material force has always played, and still plays, a great rôle in humanity’s history; sometimes it is a progressive rôle, more often a reactionary one; its character depends on what class applies the force, and to what end. But it is a far cry from this to the belief that force can solve all problems and overcome all obstacles. It is possible by force of arms to check the development of progressive historical tendencies; it is not possible to block the road of the advance of progressive ideas for ever. That is why, when the struggle is one for great principles, the revolutionary can only follow one rule: Fais ce que dois, advienne que pourra.

The nearer drew the time for the fifteenth congress, set for the end of 1927, the more the party felt that it had reached a crossroads in history. Alarm was rife in the ranks. In spite of a monstrous terror, the desire to hear the opposition awoke in the party. This could be achieved only by illegal means. Secret meetings were held in various parts of Moscow and Leningrad, attended by workers and students of both sexes, who gathered in groups of from twenty to one hundred and two hundred to hear some representative of the opposition. In one day I would visit two, three, and sometimes four of such meetings. They were usually held in some worker’s apartment. Two small rooms would be packed with people, and the speaker would stand at the door between the two rooms. Sometimes every one would sit on the floor; more often the discussion had to be carried on stand big, for lack of space. Occasionally representatives of the Control Commission would appear at such meetings and demand that everyone leave. They were invited to take part in the discussion. If they caused any disturbance they were put out. In all, about 20,000 people attended such meetings in Moscow and Leningrad. The number was growing. The opposition cleverly prepared a huge meeting in the hall of the High Technical School, which had been occupied from within. The hall was crammed with two thousand people, while a huge crowd remained outside in the street. The attempts of the administration to stop the meeting proved ineffectual. Kamenev and I spoke for about two hours. Finally the Central Committee issued an appeal to the workers to break up the meetings of the opposition by force. This appeal was merely a screen for carefully prepared attacks on the opposition by military units under the guidance of the GPU. Stalin wanted a bloody settlement of the conflict. We gave the signal for a temporary discontinuance of the large meetings. But this was not until after the demonstration of November 7.

In October of 1927, the Central Executive Committee held its session in Leningrad. In honor of the occasion, the authorities staged a mass demonstration. But through an unforeseen circumstance, the demonstration took an entirely unexpected turn. Zinoviev and I and a few others of the opposition were making the rounds of the city by automobile, to see the size and temper of the demonstration. Toward the end of our drive, we approached the Taurid Palace where motor-trucks were drawn up as platforms for the members of the Central Executive Committee. Our automobile stopped short before a line of police; there was no farther passage. Before we could make up our minds how to get out of the impasse, the commander hurried to our car and quite guilelessly offered to escort us to the platform. Before we could overcome our hesitation, two lines of police opened a way for us to the last motor-truck, which was still unoccupied. When the masses learned that we were on the last platform, the character of the demonstration changed instantly. The people began to pass by the first trucks indifferently, with out even answering the greetings from them, and hurried on to our platform. Soon a bank of thousands of people had been formed around our truck. Workers and soldiers halted, looked up, shouted their greetings, and then were obliged to move on because of the impatient pressure of those behind them. A platoon of police which was sent to our truck to restore order was itself caught up by the general mood, and took no action. Hundreds of trusted agents of the apparatus were despatched into the thick of the crowd. They tried to whistle us down, but their isolated whistles were quite drowned by the shouts of sympathy. The longer this continued, the more intolerable the situation became for the official leaders of the demonstration. In the end, the chairman of the Central Executive Committee and a few of its most prominent members came down from the first platform, around which there was nothing but a vast gulf of emptiness, and climbed onto ours, which stood at the very end and was in tended for the least important guests. But even this bold step failed to save the situation, for the people kept shouting names — and the names were not those of the official masters of the situation.

Zinoviev was instantly optimistic, and expected momentous consequences from this manifestation of sentiment. I did not share his impulsive estimate. The working masses of Leningrad demonstrated their dissatisfaction in the form of platonic sympathy for the leaders of the opposition, but they were still unable to prevent the apparatus from making short work of us. On this score I had no illusions. On the other hand, the demonstration was bound to suggest to the ruling faction the necessity of speeding up the destruction of the opposition, so that the masses might be confronted with an accomplished fact.

The next landmark was the Moscow demonstration in honor of the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. The organizers of the demonstration, the authors of the jubilee articles, and the speakers were, in most cases, people who either had been on the other side of the barricade during the events of October, or had simply sought shelter under the family roof until they could see what had happened, and had joined the revolution only after it had won a secure victory. It was with amusement rather than bitterness that I read articles and listened to radio speeches in which these hangers-on accused me of treason to the October Revolution. When you understand the dynamics of the historical process and see how your opponent is being pulled by strings controlled by a hand unknown to him, then the most disgusting acts of turpitude and perfidy lose their power over you.

The oppositionists decided to take part in the general procession, carrying their own placards, with their slogans. These were in no sense directed against the party; they read, for example:

“Let us turn our fire to the right — against the kulak, the nepman and the bureaucrat.” . . .

“Let us carry out Lenin’s will.” . . .

“Against opportunism, against a split, and for the unity of Lenin’s party.”

Today, these slogans form the official credo of the Stalin faction in its fight against the right wing. On November 7, the placards of the opposition were snatched from their hands and torn to pieces, while their bearers were mauled by specially organized units. The official leaders had learned their lesson in the Leningrad demonstration, and this time their preparations were much more efficient. The masses were showing signs of uneasiness. They joined in the demonstration with minds that were profoundly disquieted. And above the alarmed and bewildered people, two active groups were rising — the opposition and the apparatus. As volunteers in the fight against the “Trotskyists,” notoriously non-revolutionary and sometimes sheer Fascist elements in the streets of Moscow were now coming to the aid of the apparatus. A policeman, pretending to be giving a warning, shot openly at my automobile. Someone was guiding his hand. A drunken official of the fire-brigade, shouting imprecations, jumped on the running-board of my automobile and smashed the glass. To one who could see, the incidents in the Moscow streets on November 7, 1927, were obviously a rehearsal of the Thermidor.

A similar demonstration took place in Leningrad. Zinoviev and Radek, who had gone there, were laid hold of by a special detachment, and under the pretense of protection from the crowd, were shut up in one of the buildings for the duration of the demonstration. On the same day, Zinoviev wrote us in Moscow: “All the information at hand indicates that this outrage will greatly benefit our cause. We are worried to know what happened with you. Contacts [that is, secret discussions with the workers] are proceeding very well here. The change in our favor is great. For the time being we do not propose to leave.” This was the last flash of energy from the opposition of Zinoviev. A day later he was in Moscow, insisting on the necessity of surrender.

On November 16, Joffe committed suicide; his death was a wedge in the growing struggle.

Joffe was a very sick man. He had been brought back from Japan, where he was Soviet ambassador, in a serious condition. Many obstacles were placed in the way of his being sent abroad, but his stay there was too brief, and although it had its beneficial results, they were not sufficient compensation. Joffe became my deputy in the Chief Concessions Committee, and all the heavy routine fell on him. The crisis in the party disturbed him greatly. The thing that worried him most was the treachery. Several times he was ready to throw himself into the thick of the struggle. Concerned for his health, I tried to hold him back. Joffe was especially furious at the campaign in connection with the theory of permanent revolution. He couldn’t stomach the vile baiting of those who had foreseen, long in advance of the rest, the course and character of the revolution, by those who were merely enjoying its fruits. Joffe told me of his conversation with Lenin — it took place in 1919, if I am not mistaken — on the subject of permanent revolution. Lenin said to him: “Yes, Trotsky proved to be right.” Joffe wanted to publish that conversation, but I tried my best to dissuade him. I could visualize the avalanche of baiting that would crash down upon him. Joffe was peculiarly persistent, and under a soft exterior he concealed an inalterable will. At each new outburst of aggressive ignorance and political treachery, he would come to me again, with a drawn and indignant face, and repeat: “I must make it public.” I would argue with him again that such “evidence of a witness” could change nothing; that it was necessary to re-educate the new generation of the party, and to aim far ahead.

Joffe had been unable to complete his cure abroad, and his physical condition was growing worse every day. Toward autumn, he was compelled to stop work, and then he was laid low altogether. His friends again raised the question of sending him abroad, but this time the Central Committee refused point-blank. The Stalinites were now preparing to send the oppositionists in quite a different direction. My expulsion from the Central Committee and then from the party startled Joffe more than any one else. To his personal and political wrath was added the bitter realization of his own physical helplessness. Joffe felt unerringly that the future of the revolution was at stake. It was no longer in his power to fight, and life apart from struggle meant nothing for him. So he drew his final conclusion.

At that time I had already moved from the Kremlin to the home of my friend Byeloborodov, who formally was still people’s commissary of the interior, although the agents of the GPU were on his heels wherever he went. Byeloborodov was then away in his native Urals, where he was trying to reach the workers in the struggle against the apparatus. I telephoned Joffe’s apartment to ask the state of his health. He himself answered; the telephone was beside his bed. In the tone of his voice — but I realized this only later — there was something strange and alarming. He asked me to come to him. Some chance prevented me from doing so immediately. In those stormy days, comrades called continuously at Byeloborodov’s house to confer with me on important matters. An hour or two later an unfamiliar voice in formed me over the telephone: “Adolph Abramovich has shot himself. There is a packet for you on his bed-side table.” In Byeloborodov’s house, there were always a few military oppositionists on duty to accompany me in my movements about town. We set off in haste for Joffe’s. In answer to our ringing and knocking, some one demanded our names from behind the door and then opened it after some delay; something mysterious was going on inside. As we entered, I saw the calm and infinitely tender face of Adolph Abramovich against a blood-stained pillow. B., a member of the board of the GPU, was at Joffe’s desk. The packet was gone from the bedside table. I demanded its return at once. B. muttered that there was no letter at all. His manner and voice left me in no doubt that he was lying. A few minutes later, friends from all parts of the city began to pour into the apartment. The official representatives of the commissariat of foreign affairs and of the party institutions felt lost in the midst of the crowd of oppositionists. During the night, several thousand people visited the house. The news of the theft of the letter spread through the city. Foreign journalists were sending dispatches, and it became quite impossible to conceal the letter any longer. In the end, a photostatic copy of it was handed to Rakovsky. Why a letter written by Joffe to me and sealed in an envelope that bore my name should have been given to Rakovsky, and at that in a photostatic copy instead of the original, is something that I cannot even attempt to explain. Joffe’s letter reflects him to the end, but as he was half an hour before his death. Joffe knew my attitude toward him; he was bound to me by a deep moral confidence, and gave me the right to delete anything I thought superfluous or unsuitable for publication. Failing to conceal the letter from the whole world, the cynical enemy tried to exploit for its own purposes those very lines not written for the public eye.

Joffe tried to make his death a service to the same cause to which he had dedicated his life. With the same hand that was to pull the trigger against his own temple half an hour later, he wrote the last evidence of a witness and the last counsel of a friend. This is what he addressed directly to me in his last letter:

“You and I, dear Lev Davydovich, are bound to each other by decades of joint work, and, I make bold to hope, of personal friendship. This gives me the right to tell you in parting what I think you are mistaken in. I have never doubted the rightness of the road you pointed out, and as you know I have gone with you for more than twenty years, since the days of ‘permanent revolution.’ But I have always believed that you lacked Lenin’s unbending will, his unwillingness to yield, his readiness even to remain alone on the path that he thought right in the anticipation of a future majority, of a future recognition by every one of the rightness of his path. Politically, you were always right, beginning with, and I told you repeatedly that with my own ears I had heard Lenin admit that even in 1905, you, and not he, were right. One does not lie before his death, and now I repeat this again to you . . . But you have often abandoned your rightness for the sake of an overvalued agreement, or compromise. This is a mistake. I repeat: politically you have always been right, and now more right than ever. Some day the party will realize it, and history will not fail to accord recognition. Then don’t lose your courage if some one leaves you now, or if not as many come to you, and not as soon, as we all would like. You are right, but the guarantee of the victory of your rightness lies in nothing but the extreme unwillingness to yield, the strictest straightforwardness, the absolute rejection of all compromise; in this very thing lay the secret of Lenin’s victories. Many a time I have wanted to tell you this, but only now have I brought myself to do so, as a last farewell.”

Joffe’s funeral was set for a working-day, at an hour that would prevent the Moscow workers from taking part in it. But in spite of this, it attracted no less than ten thousand people and turned into an imposing oppositionist demonstration. Meanwhile, Stalin’s faction was preparing for the congress, hastening to place a split before it as an accomplished fact. The so-called elections to local conferences which sent delegates to the congress were carried out before the official opening of the sham “discussion,” during which groups of whistlers, organized in military fashion, broke up meetings in the regular Fascist way. It is difficult even to imagine anything more disgraceful than the preparations for the fifteenth congress. Zinoviev and his group had no difficulty in perceiving that the congress would put the political capsheaf on the physical rout that had begun in the streets of Moscow and Leningrad on the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. The only concern of Zinoviev and his friends was to capitulate while there was yet time. They could not fail to understand that the Stalin bureaucrats saw their real enemy not in them, the oppositionists of the second draft, but in the main group of the opposition, linked to me. They hoped to buy forgiveness, if not to win favor, by a demonstrative break with me at the time of the fifteenth congress. They did not foresee that by a double betrayal they would achieve their own political elimination. Although they weakened our group temporarily by stabbing it in the back, they condemned themselves to political death.

The fifteenth congress resolved to expel the opposition en bloc. The expelled were placed at the disposal of the GPU.

1. St. Petersburg, renamed Petrograd during the war, had been rechristened as Leningrad. — Trans.

2. Written before the recent death of Stresemann. — Trans.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/trotsky/leon/my_life/chapter42.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:05