My Life, by Leon Trotsky

Chapter 43

The Exile

I will quote in full my wife’s account of the exile to Central Asia:

“January 16, 1928; packing all morning. I have a temperature; my head is going round with fever and weakness in the midst of the things that have just been brought over from the Kremlin, and the things that are being packed to go with us. A medley of furniture, boxes, linen, books and endless visitors — friends coming to say good-by. F.A. Guetier, our doctor and friend, was naively advising us to put off the departure because of my cold. He did not realize what our journey meant, and what it would mean to postpone it now. We hoped that I would improve more readily on the train, because at home, under the conditions of the ‘last days’ before we left, there was little chance of an early recovery. New faces kept flashing before our eyes, many of whom I was seeing for the first time. Embraces, hand shaking, expressions of sympathy and good wishes.

“The chaos is being increased by people bringing flowers, books, candy, warm clothing, etc. The last day of bustle, strain, and excitement is nearing its end. The things have been taken to the station. Our friends have gone there too. We are sitting — the entire family — in the dining-room, ready to leave, waiting for the agents of the GPU. We watch the time; nine o’clock, half past . . . No one comes. Ten o’clock — the hour of the train’s departure. What has happened? Rescinded? The telephone rings. The GPU informs us that our departure has been put off, for reasons not stated. For how long? asks L.D. For two days, comes the answer — you will have to leave the day after tomorrow.

“Half an hour later friends from the station rushed in — first young people, then Rakovsky and others. There had been a tremendous demonstration at the station. People waited, shouting ‘Long live Trotsky.’ But Trotsky was nowhere to be seen. Where was he? Around the car reserved for us, there was a stormy crowd. Young friends set up a large portrait of L.D. on the roof of the car. It was greeted with jubilant ‘hurrahs.’ The train started, first one jerk, than another; it moved forward a little and then stopped suddenly. The demonstrants had run in front of the engine; they clung to the cars and stopped the train, demanding Trotsky. A rumor had run through the crowd that the GPU agents had conducted L.D. secretly into the car and were preventing him from showing himself to those who had come to see him off. The excitement at the station was indescribable. There were clashes with the police and the agents of the GPU, with casualties on both sides. Arrests were made. The train was detained for about an hour and a half. Some time later our baggage came back from the station. For a long time after ward, friends kept telephoning to find out if we were at home and to tell us what had happened at the station. It was long after midnight when we went to bed.

“After the worries of the last few days, we slept until eleven the next day. There were no telephone calls. Everything was quiet. The wife of our older boy went to her work, — there were still two days ahead of us. But we had hardly finished breakfast when the bell rang; it was Byeloborodov’s wife; next came Joffe’s wife. Another ring — and the whole apartment filled with agents of the GPU in civilian clothes and uniforms. An order was handed to L.D. declaring him under arrest for immediate conveyance under escort to Alma-Ata. And the two days of which the GPU had spoken the day before? Another deception — a ruse to avoid a new demonstration at the send-off. The telephone rang continually, but an agent stood beside it and good-humoredly prevented us from answering. It was only by chance that we managed to let Byeloborodov know that our house had been occupied and that we were being carried away by force. Later on, we were informed that the ‗political direction’ of the send-off had been Bukharin’s. This was quite in the spirit of the Stalin machinations.

“The agents were noticeably excited. L.D. refused to leave of his own accord. He took advantage of the occasion to make the situation perfectly. clear. The Politbureau was trying to make his exile, as well as that of at least the most prominent oppositionists, seem like a voluntary affair. It was in this light that the exile was being represented to the workers. Now it was necessary to explode this legend, and to show the reality in such a way that the facts could be neither suppressed nor distorted.

“Hence L.D.’s decision to compel his opponents to an open use of force. We locked ourselves in one of the rooms with our two guests. Parleys with the agents of the GPU were carried on through locked doors. The agents did not know what to do; they hesitated, consulted with their chiefs by telephone, and when they had received instructions, announced that they were going to force the door, since they must carry out their orders. Meantime, L.D. was dictating instructions for the future conduct of the opposition. The door remained locked. We heard a hammer-blow, the glass crashed, and a uniformed arm was thrust inside. ‘Shoot me, Comrade Trotsky, shoot me,’ Kishkin, a former officer who had often accompanied L.D. on his trips to the front, kept saying excitedly. ‘Don’t talk nonsense, Kishkin,’ L.D. replied calmly. ‘No one is going to shoot you. Go ahead with your job.’ The agents opened the door and entered the room confused and agitated. Seeing L D. in his slippers, they found his shoes and put them on him. Then they found his fur coat and cap and put them on him. L.D. refused to go. They lifted him in their arms and started away. We hurried after. I slipped on my snow-boots and my fur coat . . . The door slammed be hind me. On the other side of it, I heard a commotion. I shouted to the men who were carrying L.D. down the stairs and demanded that they let out my sons, the elder of whom was to accompany us into exile. The door was flung open, and my sons burst out, followed by our women guests, Byeloborodova and Joffe. They all forced their way through with the aid of athletic measures on Seryozha’s part. On the way down the stairs, Lyova rang all the door-bells, shouting: ‘They’re carrying Comrade Trotsky away’ Frightened faces flashed by us at the doors and on the staircase; in this house, only prominent Soviet workers were living. We were all crammed into one automobile; Seryozha could hardly get his legs in. Byeloborodova was also with us.

“We drove along the streets of Moscow. It was freezing cold. Seryozha had no cap; he had not had time to take it; everybody was without galoshes and gloves; there was not a travelling-bag among us, not even a hand-bag, and we were all empty-handed. We were not being taken to the Kazan station, but in another direction — as it developed, to the Yaroslav station. Seryozha made an attempt to jump out of the automobile, intending to run into the place where his brother’s wife was working and tell her that we were being taken away. The agents seized his arms and appealed to L.D. to persuade him not to jump out of the automobile. We arrived at the empty station. The agents bore L.D. in their arms, as they had from the house. Lyova shouted to various railway-workers: ’Comrades, see how they are carrying Comrade Trotsky away!’ An agent of the GPU who had at one time accompanied L. D. on hunting trips caught him by the collar. ‘You wriggler!’ he exclaimed insolently. Seryozha answered him with a trained athlete’s blow in the face. We were in the car. The men of the escort were at the windows and doors of our compartment. The other compartments were occupied by the agents of the GPU. Where were we going? We didn’t know. Our baggage had not been brought in when the locomotive started off with our solitary car. It was two o’clock in the afternoon. We found that we were going by a circuitous route to a small station where our car was to be attached to the mail-train that had left Moscow from the Kazan station for Tashkent. At five o’clock, we said good-by to Seryozha and Byeloborodova, who had to return to Moscow.

“We continued on our way. I had a fever. L.D. was brisk and almost gay. The situation had taken definite shape; the general atmosphere had cleared. The escort was considerate and civil. We were told that our baggage was coming by the next train, and that it would overtake us at Frunze (the end of our journey by rail) — that is, on the ninth day. We had no change of linen, and no books. And with what love and care Syermuks and Poznansky had packed those books, sorting them so care fully — these for the journey, and those for early studies! And with what solicitude Syermuks, who knew L.D.’s tastes and habits so well, had packed his writing materials. He had made so many trips with L.D. during the revolution in the capacity of stenographer and secretary. L.D. always worked with triple energy while he was travelling, taking advantage of the absence of telephone and visitors, and the chief burden of this work fell first on Glazman and later on Syermuks. And now we found ourselves launched on a long journey without a single book, pencil, or sheet of paper. Before we left Moscow, Seryozha had got us Semyonov-Tyanshansky’s book on Turkestan, a scientific work, and we were planning to acquaint ourselves while on the train with our future place of residence, of which we had but a vague conception. But Semyonov-Tyanshansky remained in the travelling-bag along with the rest of the luggage in Moscow. We sat in the car empty-handed, as if we were driving from one part of the city to another. In the evening, we stretched out on the benches and leaned our heads against the elbow rests. A sentry stood on duty at the half-opened door of the compartment.

“What was in store for us? What would our journey be like? And the exile? What would our condition be there? The start had not been very promising. Nevertheless we were calm. The car rolled along smoothiy. We lay stretched on the benches. The half-opened door reminded us that we were prisoners. We were tired out by the surprises, uncertainties and the tension of those last days, and now we were resting. Everything was quiet; the guard was silent. I was a little indisposed. L.D. tried every thing he could think of to make things easier for me, but he had nothing but his gay and tender mood to transmit to me. We had stopped being aware of our surroundings and were enjoying the rest. Lyova was in the adjoining compartment. In Moscow, he had been completely absorbed in the work of the opposition; now he was accompanying us into exile to lighten our lot — he had not even had time to say good-by to his wife. From that moment, he became our only means of contact with the outside world. It was almost dark in the car; the candies were burning dimly over the door. We were moving steadily eastward.

“The farther we left Moscow behind, the more considerate the escort became. At Samara they bought us a change of under wear, soap, tooth-powder, brushes, etc. Our meals and the escort’s camp from the station-restaurants. L.D., who was always obliged to follow a strict diet, now gaily ate everything that was served and kept cheering Lyova and me. I watched him with astonishment and apprehension. The things they bought for us in Samara were given special names — the towel was named ’Menzhinsky 1 the socks, ’Yagoda’ (Menzhinsky’s deputy) and so forth. Articles by such names were much gayer. The progress of the train was considerably delayed by snowdrifts. But every day we went deeper into Asia.

“Before he left Moscow, L.D. had asked for his two old assistants, but his request was refused. And so Syermuks and Poznansky decided to make the trip independently, travelling in the same train with us. At the false start, they took seats in an other car, saw the demonstration, but did not leave their seats, thinking that we were on the same train. A little later they discovered our absence, left the train at Arys, and waited for us to come on the next train. It was there we found them. Lyova, who was allowed a certain freedom, was the only one who saw them, but it made us all very happy. Here is my son’s account, written at the time:

“’In the morning I set out for the station on the chance that I might find the comrades whose fate we had constantly been talking and worrying about. And I did; there the two of them were, sitting at a table in the buffet and playing chess. It would be hard to describe my joy. I made signs to them not to come near me; my appearance in the buffet, as usual, had increased the activity of the agents. I hastened to the car to tell of my discovery. There was general rejoicing. Even L.D. found it hard to be cross with them, although they had disobeyed instructions, and instead of continuing their journey were waiting there in the face of everyone — an unnecessary risk. After talking the matter over with L.D., I wrote a note which I intended to hand to them after dark. The instructions were as follows: Poznansky was to separate from us and proceed immediately to Tashkent, and wait there for a summons. Syermuks was to go to Alma-Ata without meeting us. I managed in passing to tell Syermuks to meet me behind the station in an inconspicuous corner where there were no lamps. Poznansky came there; at first we couldn’t find each other, and began to get disturbed; when we did meet we talked rapidly, continually interrupting each other. I said to him: “Smashed the doors, carried out in arms I” He did not understand who did the smashing or the reason for the carrying. There was no time to explain; we were fearful of discovery. The meeting yielded no results.’

“After my son’s discovery at Arys, we went on our way feeling that we had a trusted friend on the train with us. It made us very happy. On the tenth day we received our baggage, and rushed to get at Semyonov-Tyanshansky. We read about the natural features, the population, the apple orchards; best of all, we found that the hunting was good. L.D. opened with delight the writing materials that Syermuks had packed. We arrived at Frunze (Pishpek) early in the morning. It was the last railway station. There was a biting frost. The sun’s rays pouring on the clean white snow blinded us. We were given felt boots and sheepskins. I could hardly breathe for the weight of my clothes, and yet it was cold on the road. The autobus moved slowly over the creaking snow packed down by vehicles; the wind lashed our faces. After making thirty kilometres, we stopped. It was dark; we seemed to be in the midst of a snow-covered desert. Two of the guards (the escort comprised from twelve to fifteen men) came up and told us with some embarrassment that the sleeping quarters were not very good. We got out of the bus with a little difficulty, and after groping about in the dark for the doorstep and the low door of the mail-station, walked inside and shed our sheepskins with relief. But the hut was cold, not having been heated. The tiny windows were frosted right through. In the corner there was a huge Russian stove, but alas! as cold as ice. We warmed ourselves with tea and ate something. We got into conversation with the hostess at the post, a Cossack woman. L.D. asked her many questions about her life and also about the hunting. Everything stirred our curiosity; the outstanding thing was that we didn’t know how it all would end. We began to get ready for the night. The guards had found shelter in the neighborhood. Lyova lay on a bench, L.D. and I on a big table on top of the sheepskins. When finally we all were lying quietly in a cold room with a low ceiling, I burst out laughing. ’Quite unlike the apartment in the Kremlin l’ I said. L.D. and Lyova laughed with me.

“At dawn, we set off again. Before us lay the most difficult part of the journey. We crossed the Kurday mountain range. Bitter cold. The weight of the clothes was unbearable — it was as if a wall had fallen down on one. At the next stop, for tea, we talked with the chauffeur and with the agent of the GPU who had come from Alma-Ata to meet us. Gradually the strange, unknown life ahead was being disclosed to us. The road was difficult for the automobile; snow had drifted over the glassy surface. The chauffeur handled the machine expertly; he knew the peculiarities of the road well, and kept himself warm with vodka. Toward night the frost grew sharper and sharper. Well aware that in this desert of snow everything depended on him, the chauffeur relieved his feelings by a most unceremonious criticism of the authorities and their general methods. The Alma-Ata representative, who was sitting beside him, spoke to him appeasingly — anything to get home safely! In the third hour after midnight, the car stopped in utter darkness. We had arrived. But where? We learned that it was Gogol Street, in front of the Hotel Dzhetysa — a hostelry unquestionably dating from Gogol’s time. We were given two little rooms. The adjoining rooms were taken by the escort and the local agents of the GPU Lyova checked up on our baggage — two cases of underwear and books were missing, lost somewhere in the snow. Alas! we were again without Semyonov-Tyanshansky, gone were L. .’s maps and books about China and India; gone were the writing materials. Fifteen pairs of eyes — and yet they failed to look after the luggage properly!

“In the morning, Lyova went out to reconnoitre. He became acquainted with the town, first of all with the post-and-telegraph office, which was to be the centre of our life. He found a chemist’s shop, too, and searched tirelessly for all the needed articles — pens, pencils, bread, butter, and candles . . . For the first few days, L.D. and I never left our room. Later on we began to go out for short walks in the evening. All our connections with the outside world were though our son.

“Dinner was brought in from an eating-place nearby. Lyova was busy all day long. We waited impatiently for him. He brought us papers and various bits of information about the people and the life of the town. We were anxious to know if Syermuks had reached Alma-Ata. Suddenly, on the morning of our fourth day there, we heard the familiar voice in the corridor. How dear it was to us! We listened tensely from behind the door to Syermuks’ words and footsteps. His coming opened new prospects before us. Syermuks was given a room just opposite ours. I stepped out into the corridor; he bowed to me from a distance. We still could not risk entering into conversation with him, but we rejoiced silently in his nearness. The next day, we stealthily let him into our room, told him hastily what had happened, and planned for our joint future. But that future proved to be very brief. That very night, at ten o’clock, came the finish. The hotel was quiet. L.D. and I were sitting in our room, with the door half open on the cold corridor because the iron stove made the room unbearably hot. Lyova was in his room. We heard the soft, cautious padding of felt boots in the hall, and listened intently.

(Lyova, as we learned later, was also listening; he had guessed what was happening.) They have come, flashed through our minds. We could hear some one enter Syermuks’ room without knocking, and say, “Hurry up, now!” and then Syermuks’ reply:

“May I at least put the felt boots on?” — evidently he was in his slippers. Again the soft, almost noiseless steps and then deep silence. Later the doorman came and locked Syermuks’ room. We never saw him again. He was kept on starvation rations for a few weeks in the basement of the GPU in Alma-Ata together with the criminals, and then was sent to Moscow with a daily allowance of 25 kopecks, which was not even enough to buy bread. Poznansky, as we learned later, was arrested at the same time in Tashkent and taken to Moscow. About three months later, we got news from them from their places of exile. By some happy chance, when they were being taken to the East, they were put in the same railway carriage in seats facing each other. Separated for a time, they met thus only to be separated again; they were exiled to different places.

“And so L.D. found himself without his assistants. His opponents revenged themselves on them for their faithful service with L.D. to the revolution. The gentle, modest Glazman had been driven to suicide as early as 1924. Syermuks and Poznansky were sent into exile. Butov, the quiet industrious Butov, was arrested, pressed for false evidence, and driven to a hunger-strike that ended in his death in the prison hospital. Thus was the ’secretariat’ which L.D. ’s enemies regarded with mystic hatred as the source of all evil finally wiped out. The enemies now considered L.D. completely disarmed in the far-away Alma-Ata. Voroshilov openly gloated: ’Even if he dies there, we won’t hear of it soon.’ But L.D. was not disarmed. We formed a co-operative of three. The work of establishing contact with the outside world fell on our son’s shoulders. He was in charge of the correspondence. L.D. sometimes called him minister of foreign affairs, and sometimes minister of posts and telegraph. Our correspondence soon grew to a huge volume, and the burden of it was Lyova’s. He was bodyguard as well. He also found for L.D. the material for his literary work, searched the bookshelves of the library, secured back numbers of newspapers, and copied excerpts. He conducted all negotiations with the local authorities, organized the hunting trips, took care of the dog and the guns.

“And on top of all that, he studied economic geography and languages assiduously.

“A few weeks after our arrival, L.D.’s scientific and political work was already in full swing. Later on, Lyova found a girl typist. The GPU did not molest her, but they evidently compelled her to report everything that she typed for us. It would have been amusing to hear the report of this young girl, so little experienced in the struggle against Trotskyism.

“A fine thing in Alma-Ata was the snow, white, clean, and dry. As there was very little walking or driving, it kept its freshness all winter long. In the spring, it yielded to red poppies. Such a lot of them — like gigantic carpets! The steppes glowed red for miles around. In the summer there were apples — the famous Alma-Ata variety, huge and also red. The town had no central waterworks, no lights, and no paved roads. In the bazaar in the centre of the town, the Kirghizes sat in the mud at the doorsteps of their shops, warming themselves in the sun and searching their bodies for vermin. Malaria was rampant. There was also pestilence, and during the summer months an extraordinary number of mad dogs. The newspapers reported many cases of leprosy in this region.

“In spite of all this, we spent a good summer. We rented a peasant house from a fruit-grower up on the hills with an open view of the snow-capped mountains, a spur of the Tyan-Shan range. With the owner and his family, we watched the fruit ripen and took an active part in gathering it. The orchard was a pic ture of change. First the white bloom; then the trees grew heavy, with bending branches held up by props. Then the fruit lay in a motley carpet under the trees on straw mats, and the trees, rid of their burden, straightened their branches again. The orchard was fragrant with the ripe apples and pears; bees and wasps were buzzing. We were making preserves.

“In June and July, work was in full swing in the little reed-thatched house in the apple orchard, with a typewriter clicking incessantly, a thing unknown in those parts. L.D. was dictating a criticism of the programme of the Communist International, making corrections and handing it back for retyping. The mail was large — from ten to fifteen letters every day, with all sorts of theses, criticisms, internal polemics, news from Moscow, as well as many telegrams about political matters and inquiries about L.D.’s health. Great world problems were mingled with minor local matters that here seemed also important. Sosnovsky’s letters were always topical, with his usual enthusiasm and pungency. Rakovsky’s remarkable letters we copied and sent out to others. The little low-ceilinged room was crammed with tables spread with manuscripts, files, newspapers, books, copied excerpts, and clippings. Lyova stayed in his little room next to the stables for whole days, typing, correcting the typist’s copy, sealing packages, sending and receiving the mail, and searching for the necessary quotations. The mail was brought to us from the town by an invalid who came by horse. Toward evening, with a dog and a gun, L.D. would often go up into the mountains, sometimes with me, sometimes with Lyova. We would come back with quails, pigeons, mountain-fowl, or pheasants. Everything went well until the regularly recurring attacks of malaria.

“Thus we spent a year in Alma-Ata, a town of earthquakes and floods, at the foot of the Tyan-Shan range on the borders of China, 250 kilometres from the railway and 4,000 from Moscow, a year spent with letters, books, and nature. Although we came across secret friends at every step (it is still too early to say more of this), we were outwardly completely isolated from the surrounding population, for every one who tried to get in touch with us was punished, sometimes very severely.”

To my wife’s account I will add a few excerpts from the correspondence of that period. On February 28, soon after our arrival, I wrote to a few exiled friends:

“In view of the forthcoming transfer of the Kazakstan government to this place, all the houses here are on the register. Only as a result of the telegrams that I sent the most exalted personages in Moscow were we at last given a house, after a three weeks’ stay in the hotel. We had to buy some furniture, restore the ruined stove, and in general build up a home — though not on the state-planning system. This work fell to Nataliya Ivanovna and to Lyova. The home-building is not completed to this day, for the stove will not get hot . . .

“I give much time to the study of Asia, its geography, economics, history, and so forth. I miss foreign papers terribly. I have already written to the necessary places, asking to havepapers sent me, even if they are not recent. Mail reaches here with difficulty, and is often lost.

“The role of the communist party of India is difficult to under stand. The newspapers have printed reports of the activities in various provinces of ‘workers and peasants’ parties.’ The very name arouses a just alarm. The Kuomintang, too, was at one time declared to be a workers and peasants’ party. Will not this prove to be a repetition of the past?

“The Anglo-American antagonism has at last come seriously to the surface. Now, even Stalin and Bukharin seem to be beginning to understand what the trouble is. Our newspapers, however, simplify the question when they represent the situation as if the Anglo-American antagonism, which is growing in intensity, would lead directly to war. One cannot doubt that there will be several turning-points in this process. For war would be too dangerous a thing for both sides. They will still make more than one effort to achieve agreement and peace. But, taken in general, the process is developing by giant strides toward a bloody finale.

“On the way here, I read for the first time Marx’s pamphlet, Herr Vogt. To refute some dozen slanders by Karl Vogt, Marx wrote a two-hundred-page book, in small type, marshalling docu ments and the evidence of witnesses and analyzing direct and circumstantial evidence . . . If we had begun to refute the Stalin slanders on the same scale, we should probably have to publish an encyclopedia of a thousand volumes.”

In April I shared with the “initiated” my joys and sorrows in the business of hunting:

“My son and I made a trip to the river Ili with the intention of making the fullest possible use of the spring season. This time we took with us tents, skins, fur coats, etc., so that we shouldn’t have to sleep in the native ‘yurtas.’ But snow fell again, and the weather turned bitter cold. Those were trying days. At night the temperature dropped to fourteen degrees above zero. Nevertheless for nine days we didn’t go inside a house. Thanks to our warm underwear and plenty of warm clothes, we scarcely suffered from the cold. But our boots froze at night, and we had to thaw them out over the fire to get them on our feet. The first few days we hunted in the swamp, and after that on the open lake. I had a small tent set up on a little hill where I spent from twelve to fourteen hours a day . . . But Lyova stood right in the reeds under the trees.

“But because of the bad weather and the irregular flights of the game, the trip as a hunt was not a success. We brought back only some forty ducks and a brace of geese. But it gave me an immense amount of pleasure, especially this temporary lapse into barbarism, this sleeping in the open air, eating mutton cooked in a pail under the sky, not washing or undressing and consequently not dressing, falling from horseback into the river (the only time that I had to undress, under the hot rays of the noon sun), spending almost all day and night on a small log-perch in the midst of the water and reeds — such experiences do not often come one’s way. I returned home without even the suggestion of a cold. But after I got home I caught one on the second day and was laid low for a week.

“Foreign papers have now begun to reach us from Moscow and Astrakhan, through Rakovsky. Today I received a letter from him. He is preparing a work on Saint Simonism for the Marx-Engels institute. Besides this, he is working on his memoirs. Any one who knows anything about Rakovsky’s life can easily imagine what a tremendous interest his memoirs will have.”

On May 24, I wrote to Pryeobrazhensky, who was already vacillating in his views:

“After receiving your theses, I did not write a word about them to any one. Day before yesterday I received the following telegram from Kalpashovo: ‘Absolutely reject Pryeobrazhensky’s proposals and estimate. Reply immediately. Smilga, Alsky, Nyechayev.’ Yesterday I received a telegram from Ust Kulom: ‘Consider Pryeobrazhensky’s proposals wrong. Byeloborodov, Valyentinov.’ From Rakovsky, I received a letter yesterday in which he does not praise you, and expresses his attitude to Stalin’s ‘left policy’ in an English formula, ‘Wait and see.’ Yesterday I received also a letter from Byeloborodov and Valyentinov. They are much disturbed by some epistle from Radek to Moscow which expresses a sour mood. They are raving. If their version of Radek’s letter is right, I am completely at one with them. Leniency toward impressionables is not to be recommended.

“Since my return from the hunting trip — that is, since the last of March — I have not left the house; I have simply been sitting over a book or working with my pen from about seven or eight o’clock in the morning until ten at night. I am going to have a break of a few days; there being no hunting now, Nataliya Ivanovna, Seryozha — he is here now — and I will go on a fishing trip to the river Ili. You will receive an account of this in due time.

“Have you been able to understand what happened in the French elections? I have not. The Pravda did not even give the figures of the total number of elected candidates as compared with those at the last election, so that one cannot tell whether the ratio of communists has changed. But I intend to investigate this through foreign papers, and I will write then.”

On May 26, I wrote to Mikhail Okudzhava, one of the oldest of the Georgian Bolsheviks:

“In so far as Stalin’s new policy sets aims for itself, it undoubtedly represents an attempt to approach our point of view. In politics, however, it is not merely what, but how and who that decides. The principal battles to decide the fate of the revolution are still ahead.

“We always considered, and more than once stated, that the progress of the political back-sliding on the part of the ruling faction should not be represented as an absolutely unbroken falling curve. After all, back-sliding takes place not in empty space but in a class society, amid deep, inner frictions. The chief mass of the party is far from being a solid homogeneous block; to an overwhelming degree it represents simply political raw material. It is inevitably subject to processes of differentiation — under pressure of class impacts, both from the right and left. The significant events during the last period of party affairs, of which you and I are bearing the consequences, are only an overture to the further progress of events. Just as the overture to an opera anticipates the musical themes of the entire opera and states them in compressed form, so does our political ‘overture’ merely an ticipate the melodies that will be developed in full in the future, swelled by trumpets, contra-basses, drums, and all the other in struments of a serious class music. The way things have progressed has convinced me beyond any doubt that we were and are right, not only against the weathercocks and turncoats (the Zinovievs, Kamenevs, Pyatakovs, etc.) but also against our dear friends on the left, — the ultra-lefts, muddle-headed in so far as they are apt to accept the overture for the opera; that is, to think that all the fundamental processes in the party and the state have already reached completion, and that the Thermidor, of which they first heard from us, is already an accomplished fact. Not to give way to one’s nerves, not to worry oneself and others unnecessarily; to study, to wait, to look sharply ahead and not allow our political line to be corroded by the rust of personal irritation — that should be our attitude.”

On the ninth of June, my daughter Nina, my ardent supporter, died in Moscow. She was twenty-six. Her husband had been arrested shortly before my exile. She continued the oppositionist work until she was laid low by illness — a quick consumption that carried her off in a few weeks. The letter she wrote to me from the hospital was seventy-three days reaching me, and came after she died.

Rakovsky wired me on June 16: “Yesterday received your letter about Nina’s grave illness. Wired Alexandra Georgiyevna 2 in Moscow. Learned to-day from the papers that Nina’s brief but revolutionary life came to an end. I am wholly with you, dear friend. It pains me to be separated from you by such an unsurmountable distance. I embrace you many times from my heart.
CHRISTIAN”

A fortnight later came Rakovsky’s letter:

“Dear friend, I am greatly pained about Ninochka, 3 for you and yours. You have long been bearing the heavy cross of a revolutionary Marxist, but now for the first time you are experiencing the boundless sorrow of a father. I am with you, with all my heart. I grieve that I am so far from you . . . You must have heard from Seryozha of the absurd measures dealt out to your friends after the senseless treatment of you in Moscow. I came to your house half an hour after your departure. A group of comrades, mostly women, and with them Muralov, were in the sitting-room.

“‘Who is citizen Rakovsky?’ I heard a voice say.

“‘I am. What do you want?’

“‘Follow me.’

“I was led through the hall into a little room. Before the door of the room I was commanded: ‘Hands up.’ Then my pockets were searched and I was put under arrest. I was freed at five o’clock. Muralov, who was afterward subjected to the same thing, was detained until late that night . . . ‘Lost their heads,’ I said to myself, feeling not so much angered as ashamed for my own comrades.”

I wrote Rakovsky on July 14:

“Dear Christian Georgiyevich, I have not written you, or other friends, for an eternity; I have confined myself to sending out various material. After my return from the Ili, where I first got news of Nina’s grave condition, we moved at once to a country house. There, a few days later, came the news of her death. You understand what that meant . . . But it was necessary, without any loss of time, to get documents ready for the sixth congress of the Communist International. It was difficult. On the other hand, the need of carrying out this work at any cost acted like a mustard-plaster, and helped us to bear up through the first most difficult weeks.

“We were waiting here all July for Zinushka. 4 Alas! we were to be denied this visit. Guetier demanded that she be placed immediately in a sanitarium for consumptives. She had had the germ for a long time, and nursing Ninushka during the three months after the doctors had already given her up greatiy undermined her health . . .

“Now about the work for the congress. I have decided to start with a criticism of the draft of the programme in connection with all the questions on which we are opposed to the official leaders. I have ended by producing a book of about 175 pages. Generally speaking, I have summed up the result of our collective work during the last five years, when Lenin retired from the party leadership and the reckless epigonism came in, at first living on the interest from the old capital, but soon beginning to spend the capital itself.

“Concerning the appeal to the congress, I have received several dozen letters and telegrams. Compilation of the votes has not yet been made. At any rate, out of over a hundred votes, only three are in favor of Pryeobrazhensky’s theses.

“It is very probable that Stalin’s bloc with Bukharin and Rykov will keep the appearance of unity at this congress in order to make a last hopeless attempt to cover us with a very final tombstone. But just this new effort and its inevitable failure may greatly expedite the progress of divergence within the bloc, for on the day after the congress the question ‘What next?’ will rise in even greater nakedness. What answer will be given? After letting the revolutionary situation in Germany in 1923 slip by, we were compensated by the ultra-Left zigzag of 1924-5. The ultra-Left policy of Zinoviev rose from the Right yeast — the struggle against the industrializers, the romance with Raditsch, LaFollette, the Krestintern, the Kuomintang, etc. When the policy of the ultra-Lefts smashed its head, the Right policy rose from the same Right yeast. The chance of a broader repetition of this at some new stage is not barred, that is, a new ultra-Left phase based on the same opportunist premises. But the latent economic forces may break off this ultra-Left trend and twist the policy definitely to the Right.”

In August I wrote to several of the comrades:

“Of course you have noticed that our newspapers reprint absolutely no comments by the American and European press on the events taking place in our party. This alone made one suspect that such comments do not quite suit the requirements of the ’new policy.’ Now I have something that is no mere guess, but a very striking bit of evidence from the press. Comrade Andreychin has sent me a page torn from a February number of the American paper, The Nation. After giving a brief summary of our latest events, this important left-democratic journal says:

“‘This action brings to the front the question: Who represents the continuation of the Bolshevik programme in Russia and who the inevitable reaction from it? To the American readers it has seemed as if Lenin and Trotsky represented the same thing and the conservative press and statesmen have arrived at the same conclusion. Thus, the New York Times found a chief cause for rejoicing on New Year’s Day in the successful elimination of Trotsky from the Communist Party, declaring flatly that ‘the ousted opposition stood for the perpetuation of the ideas and conditions that have cut off Russia from Western civilization.’ Most of the great European newspapers wrote similarly. Sir Austin Chamberlain during the Geneva Conference was quoted as saying that England could not enter into conversations with Russia for the simple reason that ‘Trotsky had not yet been shot against a wall’ — he must be pleased by Trotsky’s banishment . . . At any rate, the mouthpieces of reaction in Europe are one in their conclusion that Trotsky, and not Stalin, is their chief Communist enemy. 5 This is eloquent enough, isn’t it?”

Here are a few bits of statistical data from my son’s notes:

“For the period of April to October, 1928, we sent out from Alma Ata about 800 political letters, among them quite a few large works. The telegrams sent amounted to about 550. We received about 1,000 political letters, both long and short, and about 700 telegrams, in most cases from groups of people. All this refers chiefly to the correspondence within the region of exile, but letters from exile filtered out into the country as well. Of the correspondence sent us, we received, in the best months, not more than half. In addition, we received about eight or nine secret mails from Moscow, that is, secret material and letters forwarded by special courier. About the same number were sent by us in similar fashion to Moscow. The secret mail kept us informed of everything that was going on there and enabled us, thoroughly after much delay, to respond with our comments on the most important events.

“Toward autumn the state of my health grew much worse. Rumors of this reached Moscow. Workers began to raise questions about it at the meetings. The official reporters found that their best course was to picture my health in the brightest colors.”

On September 20, my wife sent the following telegram to Uglanov, then secretary of the Moscow party organization:

“In your speech at the plenary meeting of the Moscow committee, you speak of the fictitious illness of my husband, L.D. Trotsky. Referring to the anxiety and protests of many comrades you exclaim indignantly: ‘These are the measures they resort to!’ You make it appear that unbecoming measures are resorted to not by the men who banish Lenin’s collaborators and condemn them to illness, but by those who protest against this. On what grounds and by what right do you inform the party, the workers and the whole world that the reports of L.D.’s illness are false? You are actually deceiving the party. The archives of the Central Committee contain reports by our best physicians on the state of L.D.’s health. Consultations of these physicians were held more than once at the instigation of Vladimir Ilyich, who showed the greatest concern for L.D.’s health. Those consultations called also after V.I.’s death have established the fact that L.D. is suffering from colitis and gout caused by faulty assimilation of matter. You probably know that in May, 1926, L.D. underwent an operation in Berlin to rid himself of the high temperature that had tormented him for several years; but he found no relief. Colitis and gout are not the sort of diseases that can be cured, especially at Alma-Ata. As the years go by, they get worse. Health can be maintained at a certain level only through a proper regimen and the right sort of treatment. Neither one nor the other is procurable at Alma-Ata. As to what regimen and treatment are necessary, you may ask the People’s Commissary of Health, Syemashko, who participated several times in the consultations ordered by Vladimir Ilyich. In addition to this, L.D. has here fallen a victim to malaria, which also affects both the colitis and the gout and often causes vicious headaches. The weeks and months when his condition is better are followed by more weeks and months of severe illness. That is the actual state of affairs. You have exiled L.D. by virtue of article 56, as a ‘counter-revolutionary.’ It would be understandable if you had said that L.D.’s health did not interest you at all. In that case you would be consistent, with that dangerous consistency which, if it is not stopped, will lead to the grave not only the best revolutionaries but possibly the party and the revolution itself. But now, apparently under pressure of public opinion of the workers, you lack the courage to be consistent. In stead of saying that Trotsky’s illness is to your advantage, because it can prevent his thinking and writing, you simply deny the illness. Kalilin, Molotov and others act the same way in their public statements. The fact that you are now obliged to answer inquiries from the masses and to try to wriggle out in such an unseemly manner, proves that the working-class does not believe the political slander of Trotsky. Neither will it believe your lies about L.D.’s state of health.
N.I. SEDOVA-TROTSKAYA.”

1. Then head of the GPU. — Trans.

2. Rakovsky’s wife.

3. Ninochka and Ninushka, Zinochka and Zinushka, are endearing diminutives of Nina and Zina respectively. — Trans.

4. The elder daughter.

5. The Nation, February 1, 1928.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/trotsky/leon/my_life/chapter43.html

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