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Vol. 74/No. 32      August 23, 2010

Trotsky answers charges
from 1930s ‘Moscow Trials’
(Books of the Month column)
Below is an excerpt from The Case of Leon Trotsky, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for August. It contains the transcript of the April 1937 hearings held by the Preliminary Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made Against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials, also known as the Dewey Commission. Central leaders of the 1917 Russian Revolution were framed up and sentenced to death through these trials, which were staged by the Joseph Stalin regime in the Soviet Union in the mid-1930s. Though in exile Trotsky was one of the chief defendants. In answering a broad range of questions before the commission, Trotsky discussed his role in leading the fight to continue Lenin’s internationalist course in the revolution. The commission was chaired by John Dewey, professor emeritus of philosophy at Columbia University. Albert Goldman, a labor attorney, acted as counsel for Trotsky. The excerpt is from the commission’s ninth session. Copyright © 1965. Reprinted by permission of Pathfinder Press.

GOLDMAN: Will you state, Mr. Trotsky, what basic principles determined the foreign policy of the Soviet Union during the time when Lenin and you played leading roles in guiding the destiny of the Soviet Union?

TROTSKY: We considered the Soviet Union as a part of the world revolutionary movement of the working class. We considered it our duty to take every measure which could save and preserve the Soviet Union. We considered that the revolutionary movement in every country—that its success would best guarantee the stability of the Soviet Union. We never tried to submit the revolutionary movement in any country to the specific interests of the Soviet Union, because such a submission signifies the weakening of the workers’ movement in that country—in all countries. Our doctrines, in our opinion, coincided totally with the independent revolutionary development of the proletariat across the world. I can remember—it was in 1922, in the last year of Lenin’s active life—when Zinoviev and Bukharin—more Zinoviev—directed by mere organizational narrowness, tried to revise the leadership of certain countries by measures of pressure from above. Lenin wrote then—this letter is published: “By such measures you will make only a selection of docile and stupid people. That is not what we want in the C.I. [Communist International], docile and stupid people.” I regret it very much, but I am obliged to say that this selection has since made very great progress, because the method of pressure from Moscow, of replacing all leaders in the conjunctural interests of the Moscow bureaucracy, became the rule.

GOLDMAN: In what way has the foreign policy, in your opinion, changed since Stalin has assumed control?

TROTSKY: The first thing which was proclaimed was the theory of “Socialism in one country.” The posing of “Socialism in one country” signifies that all the other sections lose for a long period, an indeterminate period, their independent role. They represent now only the “guard” of the Soviet Union. “Socialism” is applied in the Soviet Union independent of the happenings in the world.

We see now the struggle with fascism in Spain, fascism in Germany, fascism in Austria and Italy, but the Socialist bureaucracy says that the revolution progresses in the Soviet Union. In our Marxist eyes, the reaction in the Soviet Union is only a part of this tremendous world-reaction. If this world-reaction continues as now, the Soviet Union as a Soviet proletarian state is doomed.

GOLDMAN: Did you ever believe that the Soviet Union should send the Red Army into other countries for the purpose of overthrowing the rule of the capitalist classes?

TROTSKY: In such an abstract form, it is difficult to answer. It is possible to imagine a situation where civil war is developing in one country. The proletariat creates one government, and the fascists another government. Then the government of the proletariat appeals to the Soviet Government for aid. Naturally, I will not refuse if I can. Imagine the situation in Spain. And Spain, imagine, is a neighboring country of the Soviet Union. Caballero appeals to us for help. It would be the elementary duty—as during a strike it is the duty of the trade unionists in every country to help the strike, the same duty it is to help by military force if it is not imposed on them and if they themselves ask for the aid.

GOLDMAN: But assuming there is no dual power in a country. Assuming that the proletariat does not attempt to take power. Did you ever believe or advocate the idea that the Red Army should be sent into other countries?

TROTSKY: A revolution by the Red Army would be the worst adventurism. To try to impose revolution on other people by the Red Army would be adventurism.

GOLDMAN: When you were one of the leading figures of the Soviet Union, did you ever advocate this idea: That the Soviet Union should have no political or economic relations with the capitalist world?


GOLDMAN: What was your general conception with reference to that problem?

TROTSKY: It is unfortunately a question dealing with an objective situation we cannot escape. It would be the same as if I said I would not use a train because the owner is a capitalist. You cannot wait for the moment of the proletarian dictatorship to use the train. The same rule—from all sides we are surrounded by capitalist countries. We must buy and we must sell. We must have the possibility of sending our citizens to other countries to learn, to buy and sell. We must have relations, economic, political and diplomatic relations, with them. It is absolutely natural. I give a better example: It would be the same if the trade unions should cease or refuse any conversations with the boss. It is impossible. We were, in our opinion, a trade union which became the state. The other states are the bosses, and we must have conversations with them. It is absolutely necessary, even, to make concessions to them, as workers make concessions to their bosses after a strike has not succeeded. We are the only workers’ state in the world, surrounded by hostile capitalist nations.  
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