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Trotsky in Exile: The Founding of the Fourth International

Author(s): J. Arch Getty


Source: Soviet Studies, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Jan., 1986), pp. 24-35
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/151989
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SOVIET STUDIES, vol. XXXVIII, no. 1, January 1986, 24-35

TROTSKY IN EXILE: THE FOUNDING OF THE FOURTH


INTERNATIONAL

By J. ARCH GETTY*

LEON Trotsky's formal political break with the Bolshevik Party


with his decision to renounce allegiance to the Third International
and to form a Fourth International. The rupture had not come eas
Although the Bolshevik leadership had expelled him from the party
exiled him from the Soviet Union in 1929, Trotsky, for his part
formally split from the party or the Comintern. From the time of his
1933 break, pro-Trotsky communists ('Bolshevik-Leninists') had t
both within and outside the official parties of the Comintern
influence their policies in a Trotskyist direction and Trotsky had b
to organise or sanction new Bolshevik-Leninist parties outside the f
the Comintern. He had consistently maintained his allegiance
International and expressed his willingness to defend the Sovi
Bolshevik monopoly of power against internal and external cla
His four-year loyalty to the party that had exiled him was based in p
fears of the dangers facing the Soviet government. Trotsky defined
regime in this period not as a rightist or 'Thermidorean' counter-r
rather as a centrist political faction which 'zig-zagged' between left and
believed and feared that the zig-zagging and incompetence of Stalin
could, however, produce a crisis in which the real political ri
nepmen, Whites, or even a man on horseback) could take adva
chaos and mount a genuine counter-revolution. In such circumstan
would feel bound to support and defend even the Stalinist centri
attack from the right that could topple the Soviet state. He there
suggestions that he adopt the slogan 'overthrow Stalin' or or
political party which could split the Bolsheviks in a time of cr
When studying political actors and theorists it is always difficul
the subjective from the objective. Does a politician adopt a particul
stance as a result of subjective personal motivations or objecti
Treatments of most Bolshevik (and especially Stalinist) polit
routinely stressed personal ambition as a determinant of political
pronouncements. But few of the hagiographical or scholarly work
have questioned his intellectual integrity or asked critical questio
personal motives behind his theoretical and political positions
Deutscher's pioneering biography, Trotsky has been 'the prophet
tragic hero whose personal and political life was shaped-often dis
his objective theoretical views more than vice versa.2

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25

In particular, Trotsky's 1933 decision to form the Fourth International has


been explained as a function of an objective economic, social, and political
analysis of the situations in the Comintern and the USSR. Yet Trotsky's private
writings and activities suggest that his changing theoretical evaluations of the
USSR and the Bolshevik party resulted at least in part from the vicissitudes of
his tactical position and partisan hopes and not vice versa. Trotsky was a
politician as well as a political analyst and one should not be surprised to
discover that his private political activities continued in exile or, as with most
politicians, influenced his public theoretical pronouncements.
Formation of separate political organisations and renunciation of allegiance to
the Comintern would have made Trotsky and his followers members of a
separate, anti-Bolshevik political party and would have placed him and his
partisans completely outside the pale of Bolshevik politics. Such a stance would
doom any chance for him to return to the Moscow party leadership. With
hindsight, for Trotsky to have harboured such a hope seems naive and quixotic,
but the uncertainties of the dynamic political and social crisis of 1929-32 made
many things seem possible. Indeed, Trotsky believed in and hoped for the
possibility of a return to the Moscow leadership and worked tirelessly for it. The
collapse of his last hope for a recall to Moscow coincided with his decision to
form the Fourth International.
Using Trotsky's public writings of the 1930s most writers have agreed that
Hitler's crushing of the German Communist Party (KPD) and workers'
movement in February-March, 1933 led Trotsky finally to question his allegiance
first to the KPD and then to the Comintern and its member parties.3 Trotsky was
angry with the KPD and its Comintern masters for not forming a 'united front
from above and below' with the German socialists (SPD) to block Hitler's
victory. In March, he wrote a series of articles in which he called for the
formation of a wholly new German Communist Party rather than the
resuscitation of the KPD.4 Writing under the pseudonym 'G. Gurov', Trotsky
suggested that the decision had been taken reluctantly.

Just as a doctor does not leave a patient who still has a breath of life, we had for our
task the reform of the party as long as there was the least hope. But it would be criminal
to tie oneself to a corpse.5

Although Trotsky now sanctioned the formation of a new non-Comintern


party in Germany, he stopped short of renouncing loyalty to the Third
International or Soviet Communist Party and refused to approve the creation of
new communist parties anywhere except Germany. In reply to a rhetorical
question about giving up on the Comintern as a whole, 'G. Gurov' waffled: 'In
my opinion, it would be incorrect to give a rigid answer . .'. He then suggested
that the German disaster could serve as an object lesson that could shock other
communist parties into reforming Comintern policy. 'The question has not been
settled for the USSR, where proclamation of the slogan of the second party
would be incorrect . . . It is not a question of the creation of the Fourth
International but of salvaging the Third'.6 Again, on 9 April 1933, Trotsky
maintained that 'we do not break with the Third International'. In response to a

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26 THE FOUNDING OF

question on whether it was not inconsistent to break with the Cominte


Germany and not elsewhere, Trotsky minimised the issue as a matt
'bookkeeping'. 'If, however, the Stalinist bureaucracy should bring the US
ruin . . . it will be necessary to build a Fourth International'.7
For four months following his call for a new German communist par
Trotsky declined to extend his renunciation of the KPD to the Soviet or
communist parties. It was not until mid-July that he finally announced th
cannot remain 'captive to one's own formula' and that hope for Comint
reform was dead. In an article entitled 'It is Necessary to Build Commun
Parties and an International Anew', he wrote that the Soviet Communist
was no longer a party at all but merely 'an apparatus of domination in the
of an uncontrolled bureaucracy'. There was, therefore, no party with wh
break.8 Five days later, he wrote that 'the Bolshevik Party no longer exis
that accordingly it was time to 'abandon the slogan of the reform of the CPSU
Apprehensive that he would now be widely regarded as an anti-So
counter-revolutionary, Trotsky still refused to call for a revolution in the Sov
Union. In his view, Soviet Russia was still a workers' state that 'can be
regenerated ... without a revolution'.10 It was not until 1 October 1933 that he
asserted: 'No normal "constitutional" ways remain to remove the ruling clique.
The bureaucracy can be compelled to yield power into the hands of the
proletariat only by force'. (emphasis Trotsky's). Still queasy about the
implications of this position, he argued that such force would not be 'an armed
insurrection against the dictatorship of the proletariat but the removal of a
malignant growth upon it'. He was advocating not 'measures of civil war but
rather the measures of a police character'.11
Trotsky's October call for the use of force against the Soviet party regime was
not qualitatively new. He was only dotting the 'i's and crossing the 't's of his key
July statements renouncing the Bolshevik party and denying its existence.12 If
reform were impossible and if the Stalinist clique refused to abdicate power,
then the July position already implied removing it by force. Trotsky's July
renunciation of the Comintern and Bolshevik party and his simultaneous call for
a new International comprise the chief watershed in the political activities of his
exile.
Why, after the mid-March articles on Germany did it take Trotsky four
months to follow the clear logic of his position and break with the Comintern?
His admiring biographer Isaac Deutscher found the delay 'illogical' but
explained simply that 'the logic of his new venture soon got the better of
Trotsky' in the months that followed. Deutscher attributed Trotsky's peculiar
hesitation on the matter to his longtime loyalty to the Comintern and his fear of
Russian counterrevolution.13 While these factors were pertinent to the 1929-32
period, an explanation based on them does not fully account for the illogical
four-month pause between breaking with the KPD and renouncing its Moscow
Comintern policymakers. Did either rightist danger or Trotsky's loyalty to the
Comintern decrease so dramatically after the March KPD disaster?
Trotsky himself anticipated questions about the delay. He had written in April
that a Fourth International would not be necessary unless the Stalinist clique

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THE FOURTH INTERNA TIONAL 27

brought the USSR to ruin. Since he never claimed that any action on
part between March and July brought the USSR any closer to ruin th
already was, both the delay and the proposal of a Fourth Internationa
explaining. Indeed, on 27 July 1933, Trotsky admitted that logica
Comintern break should have come in April. First, he explained that
disagreement between himself and his 'German comrades' on the question of a
new party had caused friction in the 'Left Opposition' and delayed the total
break. Trotsky had had to convince his German followers of the necessity for a
break. Second, he claimed that between March and July he had been waiting to
see if the parties or leadership of the Comintern would 'wake up' and abruptly
change their policies.14
It is hard to weigh the importance of either of these factors for Trotsky's
unusual indecisiveness. It is true that the German Trotskyists with whom he
corresponded resisted the notion of a new party, although Trotsky had not taken
them seriously enough to consult with them beforehand and had never shown
much reluctance to break with the small European leftist groups which defied
him.15 The other explanation, that Trotsky waited four months for the
Comintern quickly to admit the error of its ways, is even less convincing. No one
had less reason than Trotsky to be optimistic about the Comintern and no one
had so relentlessly documented its failures over the preceding decade. Trotsky
could not have been so naive or ignorant of Comintern politics as to expect
either a mea culpa from the Comintern Executive Committee or an indepen-
dent, defiant policy from the member parties. It seems therefore that the lack of
Comintern reform cannot explain the timing of the call for a Fourth
International.
Yet Trotsky's typically polemical, assertive, and self-justifying writings have
led scholars to accept his version of the Fourth International decision and to ask
few questions about his procrastination. The issue is of more than simple
antiquarian or psychological interest since both published and archival docu-
ments suggest another side to Trotsky's life in the 1930s quite apart from his
journalistic and editorial activities. Behind the scenes of his public reflections on
the Comintern, Trotsky was trying both to organise illegal opposition groups in
the USSR and to negotiate with Moscow for his legal return.
Long before the 1933 disaster in Germany, Trotsky had tried to maintain
contact with followers in the USSR. Since 1929 he had corresponded with those
of his adherents who were in internal exile in Siberia or Central Asia.l6 He had
tried to smuggle copies of his Byulleten' oppozitsii into the Soviet Union, and
through his son Lev Sedov (who lived in Berlin) had maintained contacts with
tourists and Soviet officials travelling to and from the USSR. As it became clear
that his letters to the Soviet Union were being screened and intercepted by the
secret police, he switched to postcards, since he believed that they were
scrutinised less carefully.17
At the time of the Moscow show trials, Trotsky denied that he had any
communications with the defendants since his exile in 1929. Yet it is now clear
that in 1932 he sent secret personal letters to former leading oppositionists Karl
Radek, G. Sokol'nikov, E. Preobrazhensky, and others. While the contents of

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28 THE FOUNDING OF

these letters are unknown, it seems reasonable to believe that they in


attempt to persuade the addressees to return to opposition.18
We know considerably more, however, about another clandestine com-
munication between Trotsky and supporters in the USSR late in 1932. Sometime
in October, E.S. Gol'tsman, a former Trotskyist and current Soviet official, met
Sedov in Berlin and gave him a proposal from veteran Trotskyist Ivan Smirnov
and other left oppositionists in the USSR for the formation of a united
opposition bloc. The proposed bloc was to include Trotskyists, Zinovievists,
members of the Lominadze group, and others. Sedov wrote to Trotsky relaying
the proposal and Trotsky approved. 'The proposition of the bloc seems to me
completely acceptable', Trotsky wrote, 'but it is a question of bloc, not merger'.
'How will the bloc manifest itself? For the moment, principally through
reciprocal information. Our allies will keep us up to date on that which concerns
the Soviet Union, and we will do the same thing on that which concerns the
Comintern'.19 In his view, the bloc should exclude those who capitulated and
recanted: capitulationist sentiment 'will be inexorably and pitilessly combatted
by us'.20 Gol'tsman had relayed the opinion of those in the Soviet Union that
participation in the bloc by the Right Opposition was desirable, and that
formation of the bloc should be delayed until their participation could be
secured. Trotsky reacted against this suggestion: 'The allies' opinion that one
must wait until the rights can easily join does not have my approval ... '
Trotsky was impatient with what he considered passivity on the part of the Right
Opposition. 'One struggles against repression by anonymity and conspiracy, not
by silence'.21 Sedov then replied that the bloc had been organised. 'It embraces
the Zinovievists, the Sten-Lominadze group, and the Trotskyists (old "" ),'22
'The Safarov-Tarkhanov group has not yet formally entered-they have a very
extreme position; they will enter soon.'
Ironically, back in the Soviet Union, the leaders of the bloc were being
rounded up by the police at this precise moment. Ivan Smirnov and those around
him (including the economist Preobrazhensky) had been arrested 'by accident'.
It seems that a provocateur in their midst had denounced them on a separate
matter. Moreover, Zinoviev and Kamenev had been arrested and deported for
knowing about the oppositional Ryutin platform and not reporting it to the
authorities. Although these events certainly disrupted the bloc, Sedov was not
despondent. He was sure that the police had found no documents or 'Trotskyist
literature' on Smirnov, and while 'the arrest of the "ancients" is a great blow,
the lower workers are safe'.23
At about this time, Trotsky attempted to contact his 'lower workers' directly.
During a brief stay in Copenhagen, he handed a letter to an English supporter
named Harry Wicks who was to convey it to oppositionists in Russia. The letter
began: 'I am not sure that you know my handwriting. If not, you will probably
find someone else who does'. Trotsky went on to call upon loyal oppositionists
to become active: 'The comrades who sympathize with the Left Opposition are
obliged to come out of their passive state at this time, maintaining, of course, all
precautions'. (emphasis Trotsky's). He went on to give names and addresses of
safe contacts in Berlin, Prague, and Istanbul to whom communications for

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THE FOURTH INTERNA TIONAL 29

Trotsky could be sent, and the concluded, 'I am certain that the men
situation in which the Party finds itself will force all the comrades devoted to
revolution to gather actively about the Left Opposition'.24
It is clear, then, that a united left oppositional bloc was formed in 193
Trotsky's opinion, the bloc existed only for the purposes of communicatio
exchange of information, and from the evidence, it seems clear that Tr
envisioned no secret 'terrorist' role for the bloc, as Moscow would charge
years later. There is also reason to believe that after the decapitation of th
(through the removal of Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, and others)
organisation included mainly lower level, less prominent oppositio
followers of Zinoviev, but not Zinoviev himself. Finally, it seems that Tr
attempted to maintain direct contact with the 'allies'. The size and streng
the 1932 bloc cannot be determined and one does not know how threateni
was to the regime. In any case, events would show that both Trotskyist
Stalinists took it seriously.
Aside from the bloc, Trotsky was pursuing another strategy in these mo
During the autumn of 1932 he had written to his son Sedov that it wou
strategically important to offer to 'cooperate with the regime in power' in ord
not to alienate potential supporters within the Stalin apparatus.25 In March
Trotsky made a final attempt to 'cooperate' with Moscow by magnanimo
offering to return to the Moscow leadership.
Three days after his 'G. Gurov' article breaking with the KPD, Trotsky
his formal offer to return to the Politbureau leadership under certain conditio
He made his proposition in a remarkable secret letter sent to the Politbure
15 March.26 Trotsky's letter was based on his perception that econ
catastrophe was overwhelming the party leadership which now neede
support and participation of all factions in order to rebuild the part
maintain power.
I consider it my duty to make one more attempt to appeal to the sense of responsi
of those who presently lead the Soviet state. You know conditions better than I.
internal development [of the country] proceeds further on its present co
catastrophe is inevitable.

Trotsky referred the Politbureau to his recent articles in his Byull


oppozitsii for his analysis. He cited Hitler's recent victory in Germa
evidence of the bankruptcy of Comintern policy and asserted that disaster
that had led to a 'loss of confidence in the leadership'. 'Chto nado sdelat'?'
was needed was a 'rebirth of the party organisation' in order to reestab
confidence, and the Left Opposition was willing to cooperate. Some of yo
say, Trotsky mused, that the Left Opposition merely wants a path to pow
is offering to cooperate only to get back inside the leadership. However
question, Trotsky replied, is not power [!] for this or that faction but rather
survival of the workers' state and international revolution for many ye

Only open and honest cooperation between the historically produced fractions,
transforming them into tendencies in the party and eventually dissolving into it,
concrete conditions restore confidence in the leadership and resurrect the pa

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30 THE FOUNDING OF

Trotsky then promised that a returning Left Opposition would not persecute
party members who had opposed it in the past.
After describing the conditions which demanded the return of the opp
Trotsky made a remarkable offer. Alluding to the platform of th
Opposition, he insisted,

Renunciation of this programme is of course out of the question ... But concernin
manner of presenting and defending this programme before the Central Com
and the party, not to mention the manner of putting it into effect, there can an
be achieved a preliminary agreement with the goal of preventing shocks or splitt

Trotsky thus proposed that the Left Opposition be allowed to return t


leadership as a 'tendency' within the party, and insisted that his group would
publicly renounce its critique and programme. He was, however, leavin
door open for a deal under which agitation for this programme could be
abeyance for an indefinite period. Trotsky was willing to re-enter the lea
without the usual recantation but with the suggestion that for the sake o
unity he would refrain from criticism. This was a new proposal. Previou
had demanded unlimited freedom of criticism for the opposition with
party, but now he was making oppositional criticism conditional o
'agreement' to be worked out. The contradiction with Trotsky's pr
conditions and demands explains the secrecy of the letter.28 Unlike his p
open letters to the Soviet leadership, this epistle was never released or pu
by Trotsky.29 He concluded the letter by informing the Politbureau th
were receiving the only copy of the document. This would leave the Poli
'free to choose the means' to begin discussions.
The 12 March article 'KPD or New Party?' and the 15 March secret lette
interrelated. First, Trotsky may have thought that his call for a new pa
Germany would put pressure on the Moscow leadership, which wo
conceivably opt to take Trotsky back rather than face a split in the Com
Second, the secret letter to the Politbureau also helps to explain why he
the 12 March article under a pseudonym. Pending a reply to his 15 March
Trotsky was not yet committed to the Fourth International and the pseu
would allow him later to deny that he had broken with the Comintern
Such 'deniability' would have been important to him if Moscow had resp
favourably to his offer to return. In such a case, Trotsky's restored posi
the Moscow leadership would have been inconsistent with a call to brea
the KPD and it would have been necessary to disavow 'G. Gurov'.
Trotsky's delay in breaking with the other parties of the Comintern (inclu
the Bolsheviks) can thus be partially explained. After March, he was wait
Moscow to answer his secret letter before committing himself publicl
Fourth International. As much as waiting for the Comintern to ad
mistakes and reform itself, Trotsky delayed his break with Moscow in o
keep his personal options open.
A month and a half later, Trotsky despaired of receiving a reply fro
Politbureau. On 10 May 1933 he sent the Politbureau an angry coda

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THE FO UR TH INTERNA TIONAL 31

March letter, which he entitled 'Explanation'.30 This short statement began b


noting that the Politbureau had only replied to him with silence. He stresse
again the danger facing the Bolshevik regime and pointedly warned that th
regime could fall because of the mistakes committed by the Stalin faction. H
then ominously served notice on the Politbureau that he now felt free to agit
among the lower ranks of the Stalinist bureaucracy. 'We are sending th
document [the March letter plus the May Explanation] to responsible workers
the belief that among the blind, the careerists, and the cowards, there are honest
revolutionaries from whose eyes one cannot hide the real state of things ... W
call upon these honest revolutionaries to make contact with us. Seek and ye sh
find'.

The 10 May Explanation marked the end of Trotsky's attempts to return


'legally' to the Moscow leadership. The disaster in Germany, the clumsy
economic policy of the apparatus, and finally Stalin's refusal to negotiate wit
him convinced Trotsky that any kind of cooperation with the Stalinist facti
was impossible. But his 15 July article 'It is Necessary to Build Communist
Parties and an International Anew' was still two months in the future. Why d
he further delay his total break with the Bolsheviks and the Comintern?
While simple indecision was certainly part of the answer, it may well hav
been that Trotsky felt that the 1932 bloc still offered possibilities short of a tota
break with the Comintern. As we have seen, Zinoviev and Kamenev had been
expelled from the party and exiled in October 1932 for their knowledge of t
Ryutin platform. In an article on their expulsion dated 19 October 1932, Trots
had taken a generally soft, sympathetic, and conciliatory attitude toward the two
leaders. (They were, after all, still members of the ephemeral bloc.) Th
expulsion from the party and their lack of recantation still put them in Trotsky's
camp, as he saw it.31
Any hopes that Trotsky entertained about the viability of the bloc were
shattered in May 1933. Fewer than 10 days after Trotsky appended his May
'Explanation' to the secret letter, he learned that Zinoviev and Kamenev had
capitulated to Stalin, recanted their sins and repledged their loyalty to the
Stalinist faction. Their departure from opposition embittered Trotsky. In a 2
May article he described the two as pitiful, tragic, and subservient.32 On 6 Ju
he railed against them once again and denounced their capitulation in stron
terms.33 The leaders (if not the lower workers) of the bloc were gone.
Both of Trosky's non-public strategies were now in ruins. The Politbureau h
ignored his offer to return and the recantations of Zinoviev and Kamenev h
decapitated the 1932 bloc. The options which Trotsky had sought to keep ope
were now closed and he could no longer hope for a return to Moscow in the n
future. Nine days after his bitter article against Zinoviev, he penned the fatef
15 July article breaking with the mainstream Communist parties and t
Comintern. There was no longer any point in remaining 'captive to one's ow
formula'. The party which one month before Trotsky had sought to rejoin 'n
longer exists' and was now incapable of reform. It is almost as if Trotsky equated
reform of the party with his return to it.
There was more to Trotsky's life in exile than theorising and publishing.

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32 THE FOUNDING OF

Taking the formation of the Fourth International as a case study, one


that his partisan activities affected the nature and timing of his theor
assertions. Indeed, the failure of Trotsky's secret political strategies was a
component in his decision to break with the Comintern and to go it alon
conspiratoral machinations were not the only factors in the decision, bu
were important and perhaps better account for the four-month delay in brea
with Moscow than do his public explanations.
It seems reasonable to suppose further that Trotsky's activities were g
the mill of those hard-line Moscow politicians who favoured repression o
opposition. His activities could not but have provided political ammunitio
those in the Kremlin who demanded stern measures. Trotsky's secret let
followers in the Soviet Union, his organisation of the 1932 bloc, his formatio
the Fourth International, his call for the overthrow of the party leaders
force, and his continued opposition to Comintern policies (particularly
Popular Front) later made it easy for hard-liners to portray Trotsky as a
and 'unprincipled' plotter who was scheming to return, forming conspir
and opposing communist parties both politically and organisationally.
In looking back over Soviet history since 1933, Trotsky's activiti
writings might at first seem pointless and irrelevant. Indeed, ther
considerable pathos in his actions and writings. After years in exile, he still w
as if he were part of the leadership. In criticizing the first Five-Year P
often used the first person:
.. .we have not entered socialism. We have far from attained mastery of the meth
planned regulation. We are fulfilling only the first rough hypotheses, fulfillin
poorly, and with our headlights not yet on.34

With hindsight, his attempts to organise secret blocs and his offers to re
Moscow seem sad. Following Deutscher and others, Alec Nove observed
few were his followers, how politically ineffective, even meaningless, w
eloquent, if sometimes dogmatic words'.35
But hindsight can be misleading. Bolshevik party history showed how q
political fortunes could change. At the end of 1916 Lenin and his ci
expatriates must certainly have seemed dubious candidates to rule the R
Empire, but war, social conflict, and political paralysis quickly changed
situation. The social and political upheavals of the 1930s combined with
fascist threat of war offered the possibility of a similarly fluid and d
situation. Stalin's removal and Trotsky's return did not seem so far-fetc
either of them.
It seems that the Stalinists took the possibility quite seriously and never
relaxed their pressure on Trotsky and Trotskyism. The Stalinist press constantly
vilified Trotskyism as the 'vanguard of counterrevolution'. Trotsky's mail to the
USSR was intercepted and his entourage was infiltrated by Stalinist agents.36
Secret police official Yakov Blyumkin was shot simply for meeting Trotsky
abroad.37 Later, in 1936, the 1932 bloc became the evidential base for the
Moscow show trials and the massacre of Trotskyists in the Ezhov terror which
accompanied them.38 In the Spanish Civil War, hard-pressed Spanish and

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THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL 33

Russian communists took the trouble to round up and shoot Trotsk


Soviet government put continuous pressure on the governments of
Belgium, France, and Mexico in an attempt to deny Trotsky an exile
or base of operations.
Finally, in 1940, with war on the horizon, Trotsky was assassinated
Stalin thus made sure that history would not repeat itself. In whatever c
might follow, there would be no brilliant exiled revolutionary per
return home in a sealed train as Lenin had done in 1917.

University of California, Riverside

*The author is grateful for a research grant from the University of California, Riverside
Academic Senate Committee on Research.
The Trotsky Papers (Exile Correspondence), Houghton Library, Harvard University, 10248
4777 show Trotsky's discussions with his son on such questions. Robert H. McNeal, 'Trotsk
Interpretations of Stalinism' in Robert C. Tucker, ed., Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpr
tion, (New York, 1977) pp. 30-52, analyses Trotsky's changing theoretical evaluation of Stalinis
See also the summary in Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast. Trotsky: 1929-1940, (New Yor
1963) pp. 172-5.
2 Most writers on Trotsky in exile have concentrated on his writings rather than his polit
activities. See Alec Nove, 'A Note on Trotsky and the "Left Opposition" 1929-31', Soviet Studi
Vol. 29, No. 4, (October, 1977) pp. 576-89; Richard B. Day, 'Leon Trotsky on the Problems of
Smychka and Forced Collectivisation', Critique, No. 13, 1981, pp. 55-68; Warren Lerner, "'The
Caged Lion"; Trotsky's Writings in Exile', Studies in Comparative Communism, Vol. 10, (1977), pp.
198-203; Samuel Kassow, 'Trotsky and the Bulletin of the Opposition', Ibid., pp. 184-97; Siegfried
Bahne, 'Trotsky on Stalin's Russia', Survey, No. 41, (1962), pp. 27-42. Exceptions include Jean van
Heijenoort, With Trotsky in Exile: From Prinkipo to Coyoacan, Cambridge, Mass., 1978 and
Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast. op. cit.
3 Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast, op. cit. pp. 198-200; Michel Dreyfus, 'Trockij dall'
opposizione di sinestra ai fondamenti di una nuova internazionale (1930-1935)', Ponte, Vol. 36, No.
11-12 (1980), pp. 1316-31; Jean van Heijenoort, 'How the Fourth International Was Conceived', in
Joseph Hansen, et. al., Leon Trotsky: The Man and His Work, (New York, 1969), p. 62; George
Breitman and Bev Scott, eds., Writings of Leon Trotsky [1933-34], (New York, 1975), p. 10
(hereafter, WLT [1933-34]).
4 'Tragediya nemetskogo proletariata', Byulleten' oppozitsii, (hereafter, BO) No. 34, pp. 7-11
(dated 14 March 1933); 'KPG ili novaya partiya?', Ibid., pp. 12-13 (dated 29 March 1933);
'Krushenie germanskoi kompartii i zadachi oppozitsii' Ibid., pp. 13-17 (dated 9 April 1933); 'KPD or
New Party? (I)', Writings of Leon Trotsky [1932-33], New York, 1972 (hereafter WLT [1932-33],
pp. 137-9 (dated 12 March 1933: not the same article as 'KPG ili novaya partiya?' cited above).
5 'KPD or New Party? (I)', WLT [1932-33], p. 137.
6 Ibid., p. 138.
7 BO, No. 34, p. 15.
8 'Nuzhno stroit' zanovo kommunisticheskie partii i Internatsional', BO, No. 36-37, p. 21.
(dated 15 July 1933).
9 'Nel'zya bol'she ostavat' sya v odnom "Internationale" so Stalinym, Manuil'skim, Lozovskim, i
Ko', BO, No. 36-37, p. 24. (dated 20 July 1933).
10 Ibid.
1 'Klassovaya priroda sovetskogo gosudarstava', BO, No. 36-37, pp. 1-12. (dated 1 October
1933) In the Moscow purge trials of 1936-38, Prosecutor Vyshinsky would quote from this article as
evidence that Trotsky advocated the violent overthrow of the Soviet government.
12 The editors of the Writings of Leon Trotsky see the 1 October article as a qualitative evolution
in Trotsky's thinking. See WLT[1933-34], p. 10. Jean van Heijenoort, however, correctly notes that
the 'perspective of reform was definitely abandoned' in July. ('How the Fourth International Was
Conceived', op. cit. p. 62.)
13 Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast, op. cit. pp. 205-7.
14 'For New Communist Parties and the New International', WLT [1933-34], pp. 26-27 (dated 27
July 1933).

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34 THE FOUNDING OF

15 See 'The German Decision Against a New Party', Writings of Leon Trotsky: Supple
(1929-1933), (New York, 1979), pp. 218-9 (dated 19 March 1933); 'We Must Have a Decision on
Germany', Ibid., pp. 223-5 (dated 3 April 1933).
16 Sedov's address book contained the exile addresses of Trotskyists in the USSR. Trotsky Papers,
15741. The Exile Correspondence section of the Trotsky Papers contains copies of such letters.
17 See Trotsky's account of these difficult communications in The Dewey Commission, The Case
of Leon Trotsky, (New York, 1937), pp. 128-32, 261-6, 271-3. This volume is the transcript of the
1937 Commission of Inquiry chaired by John Dewey which investigated the charges made against
Trotsky at the 1933-37 Moscow show trials. Trotsky participated willingly in the inquiry.
18 Trotsky Papers, 15821. Unlike virtually all Trotsky's other letters (including even the most
sensitive) no copies of these remain in the Trotsky Papers. It seems likely that they have been
removed from the Papers at some time. Only the certified mail receipts remain. At his 1937 trial,
Karl Radek testified that he had received a letter from Trotsky containing 'terrorist instructions', but
we do not know whether this was the letter in question.
19 Trotsky Papers, 13095 and 10107. Quoted by permission of the Houghton Library. See also
Pierre Broue, 'Trotsky et le bloc des oppositions de 1932', Cahiers Leon Trotsky, No. 5, (Jan.-Mar.
1980), pp. 5-37 for background on the bloc. Included in file 13095 is a 1937 note from Trotsky's
secretary van Heijenoort which shows that Trotsky and Sedov were reminded of the bloc at the time
of the 1937 Dewey Commission but withheld the matter from the inquiry.
20 Trotsky was always bitterly opposed to those who capitulated to Stalin or who recanted their
opposition. He wrote such persons off completely.
21 Trotsky Papers, 13095. Quoted by permission of the Houghton Library. Alec Nove has shown
that while there were some differences, Trotsky's critique of Stalin's industrialisation and
collectivisation plans resembled that of Bukharin and the right. (Nove, 'A Note on Trotsky and the
"Left Opposition"', op. cit. pp. 576-84). Indeed, Trotsky's spirited defence of the smychka and rural
market relations, his criticism of the ultra-leftist campaign against the kulaks, and his advocacy of
planning on the basis of 'real potentials' were similar to the strictures of Bukharin's 'Notes of an
Economist'. See, for example, Trotsky's 'Problemy razvitiya SSSR', BO, No. 20, pp. 1-15 and
'Sovetskoe khozyaistvo v opasnosti', BO, No. 31, pp. 2-13. (For another view which sees continuity
in Trotsky's critique from the 1920s to the 1930s see Day, 'Trotsky on the Problems of the
Smychka'.) In the light of the apparent similarities between his and Bukharin's critiques, Trotsky
was anxious to maintain the separate identity of the Left Opposition. He wrote in 1932 that although
'practical disagreements with the Right will hardly be revealed . . . it is intolerable to mix up the
ranks and blunt the distinctions'. (WLT Supplement (1929-33), p. 174). In a secret letter to his son
about the 1932 bloc, he warned Sedov not to 'leave the field to the rights' (Trotsky Papers, 13095).
Despite Trotsky's efforts, Moscow hard-liners were able to portray Trotsky as a scheming
'unprincipled' oppositionist and to denounce 'Left-Right' conspirators at the Moscow show trials.
2 Trotsky Papers, 13095 (excision of word in original document). Quoted by permission of the
Houghton Library. Shortly thereafter, Trotsky wrote cryptically that 'As far as the illegal
organisation of the Bolshevik-Leninists is concerned, only the first steps have been taken toward its
reorganisation.' WLT [1932-33], p. 34.
23 Trotsky Papers, 4782. Quoted by permission of the Houghton Library.
24 Trotsky Papers, 8114. Quoted by permission of the Houghton Library. See also The Case of
Leon Trotsky, pp. 274-5. The editors of WLT claim that the letter was intended to help Wicks'
credibility among Russian Trotskyists in London, Writings of Leon Trotsky [1932], (New York,
1973), p. 328 but the archival copy contains a notation which shows that the letter's intended
destination was the USSR.
25 Trotsky Papers, 10248 and T-3485. Quoted by permission of the Houghton Library.
26 Trotsky Papers, T-3522. Quoted by permission of the Houghton Library. See also WLT
[1932-33] pp. 141-3.
27 Hard-liners in the Moscow leadership must have noted and argued that Trotsky's proposal that
his "fraction" retain its distinctive programme after readmission to the party ran counter to Lenin
famous 1921 ban on factions and factional platforms. ('On Party Unity', adopted at the X Congre
in 1921).
28 Without revealing his offer to Moscow, Trotsky wrote that 'mutual criticism . . . may have
different character depending on the extent to which it is consciously prepared by both sides and i
what organisational framework it takes place'. ('Nuzhno chestnoe vnutripartiinoe soglashenie', BO
No. 34, p. 31, dated 30 March 1933). These cryptic remarks may have been published in order t
prepare his followers for Moscow's possible acceptance of Trotsky's proposal to make criticism b
the opposition conditional and restricted.
29 For an example of the more common 'Open Letter', see Trotsky Papers, T-3423.

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THE FOUR TH INTERNA TIONAL 35

3o Trotsky Papers, T-3522. Quoted by permission


the July issue of Byulleten' oppozitsii, Trotsky r
Politbureau. While mentioning neither his offer t
'Explanation', Trotsky claimed somewhat inaccura
long-standing offer to return to the Bolshevik part
defend our views'. See 'Pochtovyi yashchik', BO
31 'Stalintsy prinimayut mery', BO, No. 31, p
32 'Zinov'ev i Kamenev', BO, No. 35, pp. 23-
33 'Zinoviev on the Party Regime', WLT [193
34 'Sovetskoe khozyaistvo v opasnosti!', BO,
35 Nove, 'A Note on Trotsky', op. cit., p. 589
36 Van Heijenoort (With Trotsky In Exile, pp. 93-
Zborowski (alias 'Etienne') was a Stalinist agent.
before a US Senate hearing, also denounced Zboro
Senate, Subcommittee to Investigate the Administra
Alexander Orlov, Washington, D.C., 1962. Trotsk
agents in Trotsky's entourage.
37 See Rex Winsbury, 'Jacob Blumkin in Russi
1977, pp. 712-18, and Deutscher, The Prophet O
38 See J. Arch Getty, Origins of the Great Purg
1933-1938, (New York, 1985), Chapter 5 for a discus
Soviet party politics in 1936.

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