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Fourth International, August 1941


The Editors

Trotskyism Lives


From Fourth International, Vol. II No. 7, August 1941, pages 195-196.
Transcribed, Edited & Formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for the ETOL.


One year after Trotsky’s death, the American Trotskyist leaders are under indictment by the capitalist government of the United States for propagating his ideas. It is symbolically appropriate that the indicted members of the Socialist Workers Party should be arraigned in the federal court in August, just a year after Trotsky was struck down. Thus the class enemy testifies to the growing power of Trotsky’s immortal ideas, his program for the emanicipation of humanity through the socialist revolution.

The Roosevelt administration has now added its name to the long list of governments which persecute the Trotskyists.

We are hounded by Hitler, Mussolini, Petain (who merely continues where his “democratic” predecessors left off), Franco, Vargas, Batista, Chiang-Kai-shek, Churchill and the British colonial administrations-there was no reason to expect that Roosevelt would long remain an exception to the rule.

On August 25, 1939, just before the break of diplomatic relations between France and Germany, the French ambassador Coulondre reported to Minister of Foreign Affairs Bonnet his dramatic interview that day at 5:30 p.m. with Adolph Hitler:

“If I really think” – I (Coulondre) observed – “that we will be victorious, I also have the fear that at the end of the war there will be only one real victor: M. Trotsky.” Interrupting me, the Chancellor shouted: “Then why have you given Poland free rein?” (Diplomatic Documents, 1938-1939, p.260, Document No.242)

By “M. Trotsky,” of course, both of them meant the socialist revolution. “War will inevitably provoke revolution,” says the frightened representative of “democratic” imperialism to frighten his adversary. “Then why,” answers Hitler: fascist and “democrat” speak on the common ground of fear of the revolutionary consequences of the war.

Driven by this fear, fascist and “democratic” rulers alike hound the revolutionists. Whatever else divides them, they join in the relentless persecution of the Trotskyists; they retain the united front of the capitalist class against their class enemy.

Roosevelt and the capitalist class for which he governs have no more abiding faith in their future than has Hitler and the German bourgeoisie in their future. All the imperialists know and fear the fact that out of this war will come a series of workers’ revolutions far more extensive and deeper than those which put an end to the last war. The bestiality with which all the imperialists vainly attempt to destroy the revolutionists is but an index to the certainty with which they expect the revolutionary wave.

Trotsky’s Example Under Persecution

The oppressors answer our ideas with physical blows. Trotsky suffered many such blows after he, as a boy of 18, entered the workers’ movement. He was imprisoned in Czarist Russia, the French Republic, the Spanish Monarchy, Canada, Norway. He was shot at by White Guards, imperialist interventionists, GPU gangs. His heart and body shook with the death-blows struck at him through the murder of his secretaries, his closest collaborators, his children, by the Cain in the Kremlin. And finally a GPU assassin pierced his brain with a pickaxe on that terrible day of August 20, 1940, and, still fighting, Trotsky died the next day.

Trotsky’s inspiring example taught us how to answer the blows heaped on us by the enemies of the workers’ revolution. Prison became for him a place of preparation for the next stage of the revolutionary upsurge. He came out of Kerensky’s jail to lead the greatest revolution in history. Exile in Asia did not prevent him from maintaining collaboration with the movement. In the darkest days of his life, when his son Leon was struck down, he chained himself to his desk and made of his obituary for his dead son a burning inspiration to the revolutionary youth of all countries. With his brain pierced by the GPU pickaxe, he called to his side a comrade and dictated to him his last message to the workers of all countries: “Please say to our friends I am sure of the victory of the Fourth International. Go forward!”

The blows of our enemies have cost us dearly. Stalin’s murder of Trotsky was the most terrible blow that the revolutionary movement has sustained in this epoch. Even now, a year after, we can hardly write of what it meant to us and our co-thinkers the world over to lose his wise counsel, the ever-fresh inspiration of his living being. The loss to the working class movement is underlined every day. We have only to think of what it would have meant to the Soviet masses and the world labor movement were Trotsky alive when the Red Army he founded was confronted with the task of defending the Soviet Union against the Nazi armies.

But Trotsky taught us, over and over, the power of the revolutionary idea, how the political line drives forward and triumphs despite physical losses. Not our numbers at any given moment, but our ideas, our program, is decisive: “It is not the party that makes the program; it is the program that makes the party.” And again: “We work with the most correct and powerful ideas in the world, with inadequate numerical forces and material means. But correct ideas, in the long run, always conquer and make available for themselves the necessary material means.” Stalin could kill Trotsky; neither he nor the imperialists can kill Trotskyism.

The last years of Trotsky’s life exemplify the power of his ideas. When Stalin expelled him to Turkey in 1929, Stalin made his greatest mistake, which could not be rectified by the success of the GPU assassin eleven years later. Stalin undoubtedly thought he was condemning Trotsky to hopeless isolation by stranding him in Turkey and cutting him off from his comrades in the Soviet Union. In seeking to stifle Trotsky, Stalin had the aid of all the imperialists; he was expelled from France and Norway, refused admittance by “democratic” Germany, Britain, the United States; and only found precarious refuge in semi-colonial Mexico. Yet Trotsky’s unconquerable ideas made their way, despite the lack of material means. Before he died he had the happiness of knowing that Trotskyism had penetrated so deeply in the world working class movement that all the forces of reaction could not uproot it.

A Roosevelt Spokesman on Trotskyism

One year after Trotsky’s death, while the government persecutes us as revolutionists, the Stalinist apparatus must occupy itself with its endlessly dreary falsification of Trotskyism. Without daring to quote our ideas the Daily Worker denounces them; it lies about us, calling us “the fifth column in the labor movement.” Stalinism must continue its battle to the death against us and thus involuntarily testify to the fact that the GPU assassin who destroyed Trotsky’s brain failed to destroy the vast heritage left to us by that brain.

The bourgeoisie undoubtedly appreciates the services rendered by the Stalinist School of Falsification. But the bourgeoisie must at critical times give itself a true accounting of what Stalinism really is and what Trotskyism really stands for. Such an accounting was given on Tuesday, August 5, 1941, by Senator Barkley, the Democratic Majority leader of the Senate. He warmly defended Stalin against Trotsky, placing sole blame upon Trotsky for any attempt to spread Communism throughout the world.

Senator Barkley said:

“When they (the Russian people after the revolution of 1917) started out, they had a vague, fantastic notion that they would socialize or communize the world; and the fundamental difference between Stalin and Trotsky was over that question. Trotsky, as I understand the matter, was a world revolutionist, while Stalin took the position that the Russian Government owed its first duty to the Russian people ... the fight between Trotsky and Stalin revolved around the question whether they should undertake to revolutionize the world or should concentrate on Russia. Stalin won, and Trotsky had to leave the country.” (Congressional Record, August 5, 1941, p.6908.)

Senator Barkley was explaining to the “isolationists” who, he well understands, only temporarily differ with him on the choice of tactics to advance the well-being and expansion of American imperialism. “Stalin serves us; he is not like Trotsky,” Barkley explains to his fellow-imperialists.

Barkley’s point is very important for the bourgeoisie. The “democratic” bourgeoisie can rule only with the aid of its labor lieutenants; without the trade union bureaucracy, it could not keep the masses in check for a day. The Stalinist bureaucracy renders a similar service on a world scale to the rulers of the “democracies” today.

Trotsky’s Monument

But these props will suffice the imperialists in this bloody epoch of wars and revolutions no more than the Mensheviks could prop up the Kerensky regime, or the Social Democrats could save the regime of the German and Austro-Hungarian Kaisers. By driving the masses of the imperialist countries to support “their” imperialist masters, the labor bureaucracies throughout the world are expending their moral capital.

Now approach years like those of 1916 and 1917 – years in which the revolutionary cadres, through their fight against all the imperialists in this war, find their way to the leadership of the great masses. In 1914 and 1915 Lenin and Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht still seemed like voices crying in the wilderness. By all criteria our party is more firmly knit, more adequately organized and prepared for the gigantic opportunities that lie ahead, than were the revolutionary groups of 1914 and 1915.

Trotsky lived to see the triumph of his ideas in the October revolution of 1917. The GPU assassin prevented him from seeing the still greater vindication which lies ahead. Countless future generations will remember with love and gratitude the man who showed humanity the way to freedom. Trotsky is dead. Trotskyism lives and will build for Trotsky the greatest monument conceivable – socialism.

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Last updated on 17.8.2008