Pierre Broué

The “Bloc” of the Oppositions against Stalin


Document No. 1

The letter from Van Heijenoort to Sedov, 3 July 1937 [1]

Dear Friend

I am sending you a copy of a letter which was found in the archives. The sheet was in a “confidential” dossier with various other things. The letter, of which I have made an exact copy for you, bears neither a date nor the name of the person to whom it is addressed. It is an original, rather badly typed: it seems likely to be a copy made from a manuscript letter. Here are some indications which my uncle has dictated [2]:

  1. The letter must have been written by me and addressed to LS in Bn. [3]
  2. The Kol. mentioned must be Kolokolnikov, the pseudonym which LS gave to Smirnov.
  3. The question of the bloc was considered in the letter on the basis that some of the capitulators were becoming dissatisfied again with the official policy, without also joining the Left Opposition, far from that. The content of this “bloc” is strictly defined in the letter and basically is reduced to exchanges of information.
  4. The date of the letter can be established from that of the meeting with Hn [4] and that of the publication, in Soc. V. [5], of the declaration of the 18. [6]

Would it be possible to recover the original? Naturally, before we receive information from you, we shall make no use of this document in connection with NY. [7]

Very cordially

J. v. H.

NB Sedov wrote several notes by hand on this letter:

Document No. 2

The letter from Trotsky to Leon Sedov [8]

Dear Friend

  1. My letter to my native land [9] was already written before I received your letter about the information concerning Kol. [10] My letter is evidently intended for the Left Opposition in the true sense of the word. But you may show it to “the informant” [11], so that he may have an idea of how I see things.
  2. The proposal for a bloc seems to me to be completely acceptable. I must make quite clear that we are dealing with a bloc and not a fusion.
  3. My proposed declaration is evidently intended for our fraction of the Left Opposition in the strict sense of the term (and not for our new allies). The opinion of the allies, according to which we should wait for the rightwingers to involve themselves more deeply, does not have my agreement, as far as our fraction is concerned. One fights repression by means of anonymity and conspiracy, not by silence. Loss of time is impermissible: from the political point of view, that would amount to leaving the field to the right-wingers.
  4. How is the bloc going to express itself? For the moment, principally by the exchange of information. The allies keep us informed about what concerns the Soviet Union, as we do for them about what concerns the Communist International. We should agree on very precise arrangements for correspondence.

The allies must send us correspondence for the Bulletin. The editors of the Bulletin undertake to publish the documents of the allies. But it reserves the right to comment freely upon them.

  1. The bloc does not exclude mutual criticism. Any propaganda by the allies on behalf of the capitulators (Grünstein, etc.) [12] will be inexorably, mercilessly resisted by us.
  2. The question of the economic programme is outlined in the last number of the Bulletin and (will be) developed in the succeeding issues.

Some questions:

  1. What does the declaration of the 18 (Sots. Vestnik) [13] mean?
  2. Where do the Decists, the Workers’ Opposition and other ultra-left groups stand?
  3. What does the ally think of the draft programme published in the last issue of the Bulletin?
  4. What does he think about the Communist International? (We attribute the same importance to this problem as to that of the USSR)?

As concerns the general situation in the country, the information does not differ much from the picture which I had formed from an attentive reading of the Russian newspapers.

Document No. 3

Letter from Sedov to Trotsky [14]

The (...) is organised [15] it includes the Zinovievists, the Sten–Lominadze Group and the Trotskyists (former “...”). [16] The Safar–Tarkhan Group [17] have not yet formally entered they have too extreme a position; they will enter very soon. The declaration of Z. and K. [18] on the very grave mistake which they made in 1927 was made at the time of the negotiations with our people about the bloc, just before Z. and K. were deported.

The collapse of the I.N. (...) [19] Group, Preobrazh. [20] and Uf. [21] (these three groups formed part of the centre) was provoked by a sick, partly insane man. They arrested him by chance and he began to talk. They have certainly found no document in the homes of I.N. or the others that could be “Trotskyist literature”. Some days before I.N. was arrested, he told our informant: “X. has betrayed and I am expecting to be arrested from one day to the next.” Thanks to the presence of his Markovkin [22], who had provided him with all the information, he was prepared. Unfortunately I.N. did not have time to pass it on. [23]

The informant says that there was no weak point whatever coming from abroad or in general connected with abroad. [24]

The collapse of the “old men” is a heavy blow [25], but the links with the workers have been preserved ...


1. Library of Harvard College 13905 with the permission of the college. The original is in French.

2. “My uncle” meaning Trotsky

3. Leon Sedov at Berlin

4. E.S. Holtzmann

5. The Menshevik paper, Sotsialistitcheskii Vestnik (Socialist Courier) then published in Berlin and edited by Boris Nikolaievsky.

6. What the Menshevik paper called a declaration of eighteen Bolsheviks seems to have been the platform of Ryutin.

7. New York which was where the Dewey Commission was examining the two Moscow Trials.

8. Library of Harvard College 13905c and 1010, with the permission of the college. Translated from the German by Alain Calvié. This document is not dated, the two examples we have seen are the same, both copies. It seems that Sedov was unable to find the original.

9. This is about a circular to the Russian Bolshevik-Leninists that we do not have.

10. Kolokolnikov (from “Kolokol” the clock) was what Sedov called I.N. Smirnov

11. The source was E.S. Holtzmann, who had met Sedov and had passed on to him news and documents from Smirnov.

12. Cf. N.15, pp. 9–10. [What this note refers to is unclear! – Note by MIA]

13. See note 6 above.

14. Library of Harvard College 4782, with the permission of the college. Translated from the Russian by Isabelle Lombard. We only give an extract, the part that deals with the bloc. The rest deals with the “special journeys” in Russia and unwillingness of Sedov to leave Germany which was the wish of his father. We want to publish this in No. 6 of the Cahiers Léon Trotsky, whose theme is the Russian Left Opposition. The letter, written in citric acid and not dated is the only evidence of a reply to document no. 2. We have followed here the order of the discoveries.

15. The missing word has been cut out with scissors. It seems to be the word “bloc”

16. The missing word has been carefully erased. It seems to be “capitulators”.

17. This is about Safarove and Tarkhanov.

18. Z and K are obviously Zinoviev and Kamenev.

19. The missing word has been carefully erased. It seems to be “Smirnov”

20. Preobrazhensky

21. Ufimtsev

22. Was this an individual? We have not identified him even if it could be about the policeman who informed Smirnov.

23. We do not know what this was about.

24. The word no has been underlined by Trotsky.

25. We do not know to whom this refers: Grünstein?

Last updated on 1.11.2011