Pierre Broué

In Germany for the International

Excerpt from Leon Sedov


From Revolutionary History, Vol. 9 No. 4, 2008, pp. 237–261.
Chapter 5 from Broué’s book Léon Sedov, fils de Trotsky, victime de Staline, Les Éditions Ouvrières, 1993.
Transcribed by Alun Morgan for the Revolutionary History Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The nature of the developments dealt with in this chapter required Broué to display a sensitivity to character that was not frequently required in his work. It is particularly noteworthy that he was prepared, where the documentary evidence required it, to shed an unflattering light on Trotsky. Sedov, having left Russia, had become absorbed in the affairs of the nascent Fourth International, based in Germany amid the deteriorating conditions of the Nazi rise to power. The conditions of his work were appallingly bad and were hugely exacerbated by the exigencies of the Trotsky family’s difficulties, especially the suicide of his half-sister Zina and the need to make arrangements for the upbringing of her son. These burdens would have been sufficient to exhaust even a person of extraordinary capacities, but for Sedov there was also the stressful relationship with Jeanne Martin de Pallières, whose attachment switched back and forth between him and Molinier.

Broué devoted two issues of the Cahiers Léon Trotsky (Nos. 13 and 14, March and June 1983) to Sedov, including an extensive selection of Sedov’s writings. The Red Book on the Moscow Trials (New Park, 1980) is the only text available in English. Further information on this period can be found in the article German Trotskyism in the 1930s, Revolutionary History, Vol. 2 No. 3, by Wolfgang Alles, now available on the RH website.

* * * * *

When trying to convince Sedov to go to Germany to complete his studies, Trotsky had been very insistent that he should not give up the “Russian work” which he alone was capable of carrying out. However, he could turn his back neither on German nor on international work. The Nazi offensive against the Weimar Republic was also an attempt to destroy the most advanced labour movement in continental Europe.

At that time, the German Communist Party (KPD) was following a suicidal policy, which Stalin had dictated to it in person through the agencies of the International. Whereas the Social Democrat Party (SPD) satisfied itself with haranguing the State and begging the government to repress the Nazis, the KPD identified the SPD as its enemy number one, stating that it had become “social-fascist” and that “the Nazi tree must not hide the social democrat forest”. It made its main attacks on the Socialists, proclaiming that no alliance was possible with their chiefs. This policy, which it cynically called the “united front from below”, was actually a policy of division and rejection of the united front at a moment when such a defensive front was the only means of standing up to the Nazis and of supporting the leftwards evolution of the German Socialists and the workers whom they influenced.

The ultimate future of the revolution, as well as that of the Soviet Union, was being played out in Germany. As Sedov saw it, it required the construction of a solid German section of the Left Opposition capable of “rectifying” [1] the line of the KPD and of involving it in real united front actions, demonstrations needed to convince the German workers. Some of its militants gained important local successes in this way, such as Helmut Schneeweiss [2] who had organized workers’ defence groups in Oranienburg uniting the SPD, the KPD and the newly formed SAP (Socialist Workers’ Party) [3] born from a rightward split from the Socialists and reinforced by former Communists. It was also necessary to build solid sections of the International Opposition everywhere so as to carry on the fight against Stalinist counter-revolution on a world scale. Liova devoted himself to it.

* * * * *

Nothing was easy for him: He lived with Jeanne [4] on money sent by his father — who was not rolling in it. Second hand clothes, sordid, cold rooms in wretched lodgings, poor man’s food and long journeys on foot were his daily lot. Tobacco tormented him greatly because this heavy smoker did not like German cigarettes, and anyway they were too expensive for him. This forced him into a perpetual hunt for Russian cigarettes, adding a torment — and a danger — to all the others. He knew such moments of poverty that he even sent his father — he apologised for it later — an unstamped letter, because he did not have the wherewithal.

He was however a studious and punctual student at the Technische Hochschule, a large polytechnic school, where he was admitted for the academic year 1931–1932, where he had to restart his engineering studies from the beginning. He scrupulously signed the attendance sheets there. A visit to Paris for surgery on an awkward squint caused his only absence. This business, carried through by Gérard Rosenthal [5] and his father Dr. Georges Rosenthal, a leader of the Radical Party, was not easy to bring about. The French police authorities were not keen to accommodate in France this young Communist who was bound to be a convinced revolutionist. [6]

They gave way however, perhaps as a result of Dr. Rosenthal’s Masonic friendships and they could not fail to have been impressed by the people who were his guarantors: Madame de Saint-Prix [7], daughter of the former President of the Republic Emile Loubet [8] and mother of the poet — a Communist ahead of his time — Jean de Saint-Prix [9], prematurely dead, the physician Paul Langevin [10] and the president of the Ligue pour les Droits de l’Homme [11], Professor Victor Basch. [12] The operation went well. His stay in Paris made it possible for Liova to win back Jeanne who had temporarily left him.

Their relationship had not left the storm zone. The love remained, but so did the crises, the estrangements, and the violent disputes. Liova knew the pangs of jealousy when Jeanne left again for Paris for some weeks because her husband blackmailed her with the threat of suicide, or when Molinier [13] announced his next trip to Berlin, en route to Constantinople. Later, in the middle of 1931, came the break. Jeanne went back to Paris — but “not to Molinier”, he insisted. According to the confidences of Liova to his mother, the relationship was on its last legs and Liova started to make acid comments about the Molinier brothers [14] and their relationship with Jeanne. He considered that a final break with her, although difficult to live through, would be “salvation” for him, but added that she would never get over it He assured his mother that he kept his “joie de vivre” despite everything.

Some months later, Jeanne was again in Berlin. “for a long time”, he assured his mother, specifying however that “that can change from one day to the next”. They arrived together from Paris after his eye operation. He wrote that they were happy, with no plans for the future. But two months afterwards, he started to despair again: Raymond did not cease calling Jeanne on the telephone to entreat her to return, and she was “dying” before his eyes, terrified by the thought of opening a letter from her husband. He feared the strain was too great and might drive her to suicide.

On his arrival Liova turned, following his father’s advice, to the Pfemferts. Franz [15], an expressionist poet and “Left Communist”, had from time immemorial kept up personal relations with Trotsky, and his wife Aleksandra Ramm [16] had translated Trotsky into German. Liova was careful to have infinite patience with them. Although they did not look kindly on his competition, which broke the exclusiveness of their relationship with Trotsky, they rendered him great service on every level. Liova assured his mother later that in two years he had been the only person not to quarrel with the Pfemferts, for whom quarrelling was a speciality, and to have repeated to himself in French, while champing at the bit: “What’s the point?”

He then made contacts in the Russian milieu with the student Oskar Grossmann [17], whom he recruited to the German section of the Opposition, the Left-Menshevik Grigori Bienstock and some others. He established an invaluable relationship with the Menshevik Boris Nicolaievsky [18], already one of the men whose documentation on the USSR was without equal. He rediscovered a Russian friend, Dîna Mânnhof, who had married a Berliner and become a psychoanalyst.

He worked mostly within the German section and allied himself particularly with Eugen Bauer, Dr. Erwin Ackerknecht [19], whom he brought from Leipzig to Berlin to help him when he realised that he would have to concern himself with the German section, and also Otto Schüssler [20], a packer of art books, whom he was to send to his father as secretary.

He also made the acquaintance, naturally, of the foreign militants whom he had not known previously, and from whom he received visits, the Frenchman Pierre Frank [21], and also the Spaniard Juan Andrade [22], who went on holiday in Berlin, to the great scandal of Trotsky; the Greek Mitsos Yotopoulos [23] — Witte or Vitte — sent by the archeiomarxists (or “Marxists of the archives”, a group which had broken with the Comintern in 1924 and recently joined the Left Opposition) to the International Secretariat. In Vienna, he had renewed contact with the widow of his friend Kliatchko [24], Anna Konstantinovna. He wrote:

A serene ‘old lady’, like Anna Konstantinovna, is worth more than thousands of youths! I fell in love with her on the spot. [25]

At that time, Anna Kliatchko was living with one of her daughters. Lina Semionovna. Liova also found Raïssa Epstein [26], a comrade of his father’s in his youth, wife of the psychoanalyst Dr. Alfred Adler [27] and also J. Frank-Graef [28] who had been called “Esquire” in Prinkipo in his time there. He went to pay a visit to Max Adler [29] who received him very warmly.

* * * * *

A little less than a year after his arrival, he had to look after his sister Zinaïda [30] in Berlin, who had come for the sake of her lungs. The attentive care of Dr. May brought to an end the damage done by the doctors in Constantinople who had caused a pneumothorax by mistaking one lung for another. But while her physical condition improved symptoms of mental disorder appeared.

Trotsky did not take the real situation into account, settling medical questions that he knew nothing about, in an authoritarian, pedagogic manner, sending letters which made Zina’s condition worse. Liova himself felt sincere pity for her and his letters to his parents, whom he did not manage to convince, were imbued with an immense and distressing compassion for his fragile elder sister. And yet, what could he do, a political activist for up to 15 hours per day while studying his course and textbooks at night?

After the disappearance of Zina, he had to take care of her little boy, his nephew Vsevolod Volkov [31], known as Sieva, only 7 years old. He liked him because he was “nice and sweet”, but, after the death of his mother, the child had health problems and soon had to be sent to a Vienna boarding school under medical supervision. Liova did not need these burdens, which overpowered him morally.

The Berlin police added to the tension by frequently summoning him to undergo close interrogations, and threatening to expel him and especially by subjecting Jeanne and Zina to the same treatment. Zina was deeply upset by this kind of treatment. Liova was distressed by the hatred which these police showed for his father.

Other long and difficult tasks arose unexpectedly. Thus the proposal for Trotsky to travel to Czechoslovakia for treatment at a spa kept Liova busy for several months because the frontier crossing into Bohemia by land posed inextricable problems for Trotsky. And so, there was Liova, thrown into the world of aviation, private aircraft, air transport charges and international regulations. Finally, the Czechoslovakian government refused the visa which it had half promised: what lost time and effort!

To these must be added worries which, if they are not always in the forefront, are nevertheless lastingly devastating whenever one’s mind is not preoccupied with something else. Anna [32] did not write any more. According to a letter which he wrote to Natalia Ivanovna, it seemed, though it was not certain, that she had remarried. Of course, he assured her that it did not bother him particularly since he was living with Jeanne. He repeated that it was a tragedy for him to be deprived of news of Liulik [33], who was now five years old and whom for a time he had hoped his mother would agree to put in his care in the West.

Now there was no possibility of that happening. Van [34] told me that Anna had re-married, to a Stalinist. [35] Liova was in despair. He repeated it in his letters to his mother. He loved his little one and missed him. He was worried about the education he was getting; wasn’t he likely to undergo deformations which could not be put right? In other words, if he found him again one day, would he not be a stranger to him? Moreover, Anna’s sister [36] had married Aleksandr Poskrebychev [37], a right-hand man of Stalin. Liova would confide later to a close friend that he was afraid they had taught his child to hate him.

* * * * *

The first decision taken at the time of his arrival had been the transfer of the Bulletin of the Opposition [38] to Berlin under his direct control. He began to work on it but a few days later, the news of the fire which had devastated the villa of Prinkipo in the night of 28 February to 1 March 1931 imposed additional tasks on him. Most of the library had been destroyed by the fire. It was necessary to reassemble the collections of books and working material — dictionaries, encyclopaedias, handbooks. Trotsky obviously did not have the means to bear such expenditure and it was up to Sedov to find solutions, almost from scratch, to request external aid without giving the impression that Trotsky was begging, yet without paying. He met this challenge. But on April 21, three months after his arrival, he wrote to his mother that “from the point of view of amusement”, he was living as if he were in Turkey and that he had not made a single trip out yet and that he did not know Berlin.

Trotsky had asked him not to get involved in German work. However, as Liova sent news to him of his meetings, his experiences and his knowledge of the militants, he was driven into it. The German section was in a sorry state: two factions were opposed to each other; that of the majority of the leadership was inspired by Landau. [39] Liova met him, estimated that he did not understand anything and that a split with him was inevitable. Trotsky, apart from this business, seemed particularly worried by the behaviour of his former secretary, Jakob Frank called Graef, and by what he called “the Leipzig group”, the former “Communist Unity Group” led by the two Sobolevicius [40] brothers, Abram and Ruvin, called respectively Adolf Senin [41] and Roman Well [42], later exposed as GPU agents as was Frank-Graef. In both cases, he did not feel suspicion but rather uneasiness in the face of analyses which ran counter to those of the international Opposition and his own and especially their policy of a deliberate and rapid split with Landau. It was for Liova to look more closely and to see more clearly.

At the end of March. Liova informed his father of the arrival of the two brothers in Berlin and one could foresee that Roman Well would take over the leadership of the section after the split. He seemed in a great hurry in any case. Liova made more and more contacts; on the question of the books, he had met the famous “Comrade Thomas” [43], the former executive secretary of Western Europe (WES) of the Comintern, who opened up contacts for him with the left socialist party SAP, in which he would ally himself with Boris Goldenberg [44], a promising young man, and the economist Fritz Sternberg. [45] He had a very serious discussion with the veteran Spartakists Paul Frölich [46] and Jakob Walcher [47], who were the left wing of the Brandlerite [48] KPO (Communist Party Opposition) and would join the SAP the following year.

He had the good fortune to benefit from the protection of a German social democrat professor, Hermann Heller, who, he said “although a social democrat and a professor”, was a “marvellous guy”, who straightened out all the administrative difficulties for him about his studies. He became acquainted with former leading German CPer. Werner Scholem [49], a man of high quality, according to his father. He convinced him to collaborate with the press of the Left Opposition, which he was to join in 1933. He met Karl Korsch [50], but without result. He also very quickly got to know all the militants who counted in the German section. I spoke above about his immediate connection on the political level, then quickly on the personal level, with Dr. Ackerknecht. It was under his influence and the authority of Trotsky that in the German section a “buffer-group” was constituted, a conciliating centre, which involved some of those who previously followed Landau.

Relations with his father seemed unchanged. In spring 1931, Liova thought he was annoyed with him. He assured Natalia Ivanovna of his goodwill and entreated her confidentially to tell him with what his father reproached him but would not say to him. In the course of the year, quarrels returned on several occasions between them and Liova did not give ground. Liova thought that nothing could be done in Austria with Josef Frey [51], a real eccentric. Trotsky wanted at all costs that Liova should find the means of associating him with the work of the international Opposition. Trotsky thought that Liova was putting too much time into contacting Scholem whereas, for Liova, it was Scholem who was in no hurry to meet him, or even to resume political activity. Trotsky, on the basis of information from Paris, was exasperated with the American Becker [52], whom he accused of being an agent of demoralization of the Opposition because of his relations with some Russian capitulators. Liova continued to employ him and to take responsibility for him.

Trotsky had sent the American section a large sum of money taken from his advance royalties, whereas the Americans owed a considerable sum for the Bulletin of the Opposition. Liova did not mince his words: in Berlin there were some comrades who had nothing to eat because they were keeping the Bulletin alive, it was “shameful” to give money to the American section. Trotsky, who Liova thought, in a general way, lacked a “sense of proportion”, which he however recommended on every occasion to everybody, offered himself the luxury of a lesson in détente:

My dear boy, excuse this rebuff. But we are engaged in such a fight on the terrain of principles that in all other relationships we can and must show a spirit of conciliation and attentiveness, and in all cases abstain from haughty attitudes and excessive hardness. [53]

Liova excused himself too, but held to his view, writing in a letter to Natalia Ivanovna:

Don’t be upset at my “American” letter. I am deeply, unshakeably convinced that it is I who am right. [54]

Four months later, on 11 March 1932, Trotsky had the grace to write to Liova that indeed, in spite of the advance of his subsidy, the Americans had not paid their debt and that it was inadmissible.

We know nothing about the meeting between Liova and his parents, in the train which crossed France at the end of 1932. Both were returning from Copenhagen, where Trotsky had been invited by the socialist students to speak about developments in Russia, and where he had met a number of his supporters. We know only that they had one disagreement of a practical nature about how to continue the journey in spite of sabotage by the French authorities. One may guess, since we do not have any written documents on these two points, that they spoke about the visit of Smirnov’s [55] envoy and about the death of Zinoviev [56], about which a rumour had been spread; or that they simply went on with their quarrel!

On 1 January 1933, Sedov wrote a letter of apology in a humble tone because his mother had sent a sharply reproachful letter to him: Trotsky had not received the books he needed and he was wasting his time, not being able to work any more. Everything showed that Liova had a bad conscience. He, however, had sent the books in the usual way and the delay or disappearance could not be blamed on him. [57]

Following the split and the reorganisation of the International Secretariat, it was Trotsky himself who had raised the prospect of moving the organisation to Berlin and involving Liova in it. It was undoubtedly one of the most difficult periods of Liova’s political life. The situation in Germany was worsening daily and the Nazi danger, in the street and the ballot box, continued to grow. Liova experienced it in his institute. The Nazis gathered some 70% of the students to howl “Jews out”.

The division that the leaders of the social-democrats and the Stalinist Communists kept up, made impossible any reaction in a society terrorized by the violence of the “brown plague”: The Nazis were marching towards power. However, they were not simple reactionaries: their goal was to crush the German labour movement and the democratic movement for decades, and the installation of a racist, terrorist dictatorship. Attentive, Liova suggested in September 1932 that they had reached their apogee and that they would have to to seize power in the short term if they wanted to preserve their cohesion. The offensive was therefore close.

The German Left Opposition was numerically weak: a few hundreds only. But it included personalities of great value, veterans, worker militants, courageous and lucid intellectuals, they would fight with all their strength “to rectify” the line of the KPD, to mobilize the Communist workers in favour of the united front of workers’ organisations, to galvanize resistance, to prepare the masses for the recourse to arms which was becoming essential. Some, like Ackerknecht and some others, went from meeting to meeting, others fought in their cells, others finally, like Schneeweiss in Oranienburg and the young Held [58] in the Ruhr, organised workers’ defence groups, militias to defend the workers’ districts from the raids and parades of the SA.

But the Opposition also included — and at its head — GPU agents, with all the consequences for its internal life. Too many militants were only interested in the factional fights which were tearing the party asunder, in the fight for power inside this tiny organization. The enemy for them was the man of the opposing tendency. The majority of sympathisers, dismayed by these sectarian factional affairs, kept their distance. The weight of the degeneration of the USSR and the Comintern bore down heavily on the shoulders of this discouraged generation.

The German Opposition did not have enough strength and could not have had the authority which would be needed to organise a real resistance to those whom Trotsky sometimes called the “liquidators” and to wrench from them the power in the Communist Party. Only perhaps Sedov — who was called Ludwig, Alex, and at the end Schwarz — seemed to still believe in it. He personally recruited not only Werner Scholem, the former leader of the German Left wing, but also Karl Ludwig, a remarkable militant, a former journalist with Volkswille, who succeeded in creating an independent clandestine opposition group in one of the large Berlin suburbs, with more than twenty members. He kept contact with Friedberg-Retzlaw [59] of the M-Apparat (the military apparatus) of the CP.

Liova did not have any disagreement with the line recommended by his father – propaganda for the united front, the achievement of segments of this policy, the fight to win over the militants of the KPD, to fight inside to “rectify” its policy. He sent him news on his own contacts and the achievements of the Opposition. Many of his newspaper cuttings were from the working class press, but also up-to-date information on the negotiations between the right-wing, a speech by Hitler who announced the offensive, a word of von Schleicher [60] on which it was necessary to hammer out propaganda, etc. He seldom gave his opinion on the German situation as such, writing however that it was very serious in a letter to his father of April 1932, then in July letting his rancour explode against those whom he called “the little bosses” of the workers parties in a letter to his mother:

What a vile band this social-democracy is! In all my life I have never seen anything like it (except in the books) and such irresponsible, criminal stupidity from the Communist. Party. Thälmann [61] (CP) should be hung beside Severing [62] (SPD), but it will not be for a long time yet. [63]

At the same time, the crisis was brewing within the international opposition. The Russian Pavel Okun, known as Mill or Obin, was brought onto the IS (international Secretariat of the Opposition) because of his knowledge of languages and so that he could translate the Russian documents emanating from Trotsky to his comrades in the IS. Was he an agent? Ambitious, disturbed a little? A disorganised megalomaniac? During his period in the IS, he meddled in everything and created extraordinary confusion. Finally, he would negotiate with the GPU in the rue de Grenelle and gave them information and documents in exchange for a visa to return to the USSR. It was a repetition of the Kharine [64] business. He was to be found signing a “declaration” in Pravda of 19 December 1932. Everyone, finally, was surprised.

But the Opposition was not at the end of its difficulties. Its two leaders Senin and Roman Well were both long-standing GPU agents, trained for this task in the USSR, and inserted into the international League to try to destroy it from within. More dangerous therefore than people like Kharine, Frank-Graef who joined them, or Mill, who undoubtedly became the playthings of the GPU only at the end of a process of decomposition. Roman Well was the leader of the majority of the German section and the strong man of the IS. Faced with him, not really taking him seriously, Liova temporized, with the blessing of his father, while Bauer-Ackerknecht launched awkward and repeated attacks. The agents had their faithful around them, Büchner, of Leipzig, Horst Sprengel of the Berlin organisation, more “ultra” and more aggressive than them. Trotsky, suspicious, had a long discussion with Senin in Copenhagen in November, from which he concluded that he was confused, but honest.

Stalin sensed that the Nazis were likely to come to power soon. He knew that the Opposition would accuse him of betrayal, because his policy had been constructed and criticized in the full light of day. So he wanted to have his hands free, to be disembarrassed, at least in Germany. At the beginning of December 1932, Well was broadcasting his criticisms, describing as “radically false” an article by Trotsky on the USSR. Then he developed in the International Secretariat of 15 December a line which amounted to asserting that the International was in process of rectifying itself, that the Left Opposition had disappeared in Russia, that Sedov and Bauer had misinformed Trotsky and tried to prevent the necessary rapprochement with the official line.

Trotsky immediately called for their expulsion, but when his message arrived in Berlin, the partisans of Well unmasked themselves by publishing a special number of Die Permanente Revolution, which announced the rallying of the Opposition to the Moscow line, and its decision to dissolve itself. Therein they proclaimed “the bankruptcy of Trotsky’s perspectives on Germany and the Soviet Union”. The text was followed by several hundred signatures of Opposition militants, the majority of whom never knew of its existence.

Trotsky’s anger exploded … against Sedov whom he accused of not having taken Well seriously and of having allowed the sabotage to proceed without ever seeking to stop it. Sedov retorted that he had certainly been a conciliator, but he was not the only one and that his father had more than once preached moderation with regard to the two brothers, which was a fair point. In fact the operation came to a sudden end in the organisation, which did not follow Well. On the other hand it had thrown a real discredit on the Left Opposition at a time when it certainly did not need this new blow. On the specific ground of organisation, Liova was optimistic. There were now 750 active militants. The Sudeten German Fritz Bergel, known as Barton, had been just sent to reinforce the apparatus because he was a specialist in financial questions. Fritz Belleville [65], a recognized theorist and notable speaker, an esteemed veteran, had come from the Leninbund to join the Left Opposition. Contacts increased with the militants of the SAP, themselves in favour of a workers united front against Nazism. Karl Ludwig and Werner Scholem were to become leaders of weight. New leaders had appeared in the recent combat and the young Heinz Epe, known as Walter Held, had been called from the Ruhr to lead the policy with regard towards the SAP and towards its communist wing which it appeared possible to win over.

But this January of 1933 was to open with the first of a series of catastrophes which were to strike Liova hard — and from which his father never really recovered.

According to Liova’s letters to the family, Zina grew better at the end of the year 1932. The tuberculosis seemed to be finished and she had no more pneumothorax. The psychiatrist judged that her state was improving. She still had odd behaviour, but as a whole, she was starting to control her life. Unfortunately clarity returned with the cure and with it an infinite sadness. She had hoped, by leaving the USSR, to find this father whom she cherished. These reunions had been brief. Since her illness, he had not ceased to lecture her, to accuse her of being irresponsible, egotistical and hysterical. In fact, he did not understand what she was suffering from and he presumed to control the illness by moral precepts of behaviour. Especially, now that he judged her to be “cured”, he demanded that she should return to the USSR to live near her mother, which she did not want at any price. Finally she reproached her father for what she saw as a betrayal — handing over their utterly personal correspondence, to the psychiatrist, Dr. Kronberg.

She concluded that he did not love her — which was obviously false — and especially that he no longer had confidence in her — which was inevitable given the nature of her illness. She had come to take part in her father’s combat as her little brother Liova had had done years before and she had been rejected: she conceived of this with great bitterness and envy, and with the feeling of being a victim of an injustice. Since he was in Berlin, it was Liova himself who took on the role of torturer involuntarily, not proposing any task for her, never involving her in his Russian work. He knew why: he had to defend himself sharply against the very vigorous accusations not only from his father, but also his mother, because he had made her type documents referring to a secret enterprise — which, he assured them, she could not have understood, but which they saw as a grave misjudgement.

Zina was not at all an inexperienced young woman however. At sixteen years old she had been the editor of the newspaper of the Petrograd Komsomol. As a member of the Party, she taught in one of its schools, before fighting in the ranks of the Opposition with her husband P.I. VoIkov. She understood the German situation perfectly, and the progress of the Nazis towards power. She read her father’s articles with passionate interest, and dreamt of taking his side in this struggle which she could foresee and which she thought could and must, starting with the long awaited reaction of the workers, lead to the proletarian revolution in Germany. However she thought that she was excluded from it in advance. Liova understood but could do nothing about it.

The arrival of her little Siéva [66], whom she loved tenderly, would not divert her from her black thoughts. She took care of him of course, but continued to brood upon her misfortune, of which her psychic disorders, as she understood, were not the smallest part. Terrible blows came to her now from outside. She was deprived of her Soviet nationality, which closed the door of return to her, definitively separated her from her husband, her mother and especially from her small daughter, Aleksandra, born before Siéva, from a short union with a member of the Opposition. She was informed that she would be expelled from German territory and that her visa would not be renewed (the Russian Volkogonov has just informed us that this measure had been taken by the von Schleicher [67] government under pressure from the Soviet embassy).

The idea of leaving German territory filled her with horror, like a desertion. Liova flogged himself, badgered lawyer friends and obtained a deferment. He knew that he could get nothing more. She furiously rejected his suggestion of going to Vienna: she would have nothing to do there. And on top of everything, she discovered that she was pregnant — nobody knows by whom. She had confided about her pregnancy only to Jeanne, without any more detail, and it is clear that, there too, she was alone.

In the morning of 5 January 1933, she prepared Siéva for school, finished the letters which she intended for her own people, carefully blocked up all the exits and turned on the gas. Liova was informed of the discovery of her body; distracted, he could not prevent the police from taking away all the papers, except for the sealed and addressed letters. He could not bring himself to inform his father and thus telegraphed his mother, entrusting to her the task of announcing the overwhelming news to him:


I had the task of explaining personally, on 17 November 1988, to Aleksandra Zakharovna, the daughter of Zinaïda, half-sister of Siéva, the circumstances and the date of her mother’s death.

And so, Liova was responsible for a family. This little boy, his nephew, whom he loved though it was not easy, was to deprive him of a few more hours in his life, which was already tragically short of them. The death of Zina monopolised Trotsky’s attention for a few days while he wrote his open letter showing that Stalin, who had removed her nationality, and von Schleicher, who expelled her, had pushed his daughter into suicide. Then he turned against Liova, who, it seemed to him, had a tendency, in the texts that he devoted to the death of his sister, to dissimulate the fact that she committed suicide, i.e. to blur the responsibility of the culprits. He returned then to his “negligence”, his “underestimation” of the activity of Well and others. He spoke about his “criminal passivity”. Neither he nor Liova knew yet that they were dealing with Stalin’s agents infiltrated into their ranks.

Liova wrote to his mother on January 24:

Papa sent an unjust, almost monstrous, letter to me, written with spite (why?) as if he were trying to find in my person the only one responsible for what occurred, completely forgetting all the history of this business, his own behaviour, etc. Jeanne and I were completely devastated by this little letter — I will not reply to him. A polemic could only worsen the situation, and under these conditions, what good is a polemic. I will still write on these questions, but only to you personally. [69]

Far from congratulating him for successes in recruitment that he had announced — a group of a score of militants in Dienslaken, tens in all the cities of the Ruhr, cadres everywhere — Trotsky said to him that he feared the entry into the section “of new elements, untested and hastily recruited, and among them some Stalinist agents”.

That same January, Ivan Nikitich Smirnov [70], E.A. Preobrazhensky [71] and 87 members of their group, including R.I. Baranov, his companion in the Urals, Tcheslav Kozlovsky, his former rival in love, were arrested. It was the end of the group of the “former Trotskyist capitulators” and all the “Block of the Oppositions” in the USSR.

The same January, the President of the Republic Hindenburg [72] called Hitler to power. The Nazi gang leader became Chancellor of the Reich. It was the litmus test for the German Party and for the Communist International. Trotsky’s verdict was pitiless: the “German catastrophe” is their bankruptcy, and they are the cause of “the tragedy of the German proletariat”, beaten without having fought.

In the “dialogue” with his father, it was from now on the voice of Liova which dominated, the cold voice of an analyst which reflected both the despair of millions of men and also his own human sensitivity.

On 3 February he wrote:

The party shows total impotence. What we are living through resembles a surrender of the working class in face of fascism. The Party, exhausted by its false policy, is very close to adding a cardinal failure in these historic days. At the top — disorientation, nobody knows what to do: at the base — they do not believe in their own strength. A great fatalism. perhaps especially in the SPD. I believe that we are now in the decisive days and weeks. If a vigorous action of the working class — which in its development can not be anything but the proletarian revolution — does not occur now, an appalling defeat is inevitable. Such an action is not excluded yet, but in my opinion it is hardly probable from now on. And it is precisely because of the revolutionary character of an action against Hitler, which the SPD wants at all costs to prevent, that the “perspective” of the SPD is something incredible. “We will await the elections in March. If Hitler has the majority, we will see. If he takes action against the constitution, then (!) we will begin to act”. The banning of the SPD’s demonstration. It would be stupid to think that Hitler will employ the same methods with the SPD and the KPD. He is going to divide them, initially to beat the KPD more easily and to allow the chiefs of the SPD to reiterate 4 August. The Nazis march, with music in the streets. There are no police. They themselves are the police. They are already arresting people in the street (for the moment, they are only isolated incidents but in any event we are only at the beginning) and taking them along to the police station. Schneeweiss, for example, in Oranienburg — one of the rare places of Germany where the Nazis demonstrations were dispersed — the Nazis went to the police station and demanded his arrest. When the police did not arrest him, the Nazis answered: “Good. We will break his head ourselves”. A comrade spoke to me about his factory (1,200 workers, the majority under Communist influence): at the factory committee, 7 Communists and 5 SPD: 12 members only in the cell: the Communists, on instructions from above, proposed a half an hour long token strike; the SPD answered: “We do not engage in isolated actions: address yourselves to our centre”: The Communists, in spite of their dominant influence, were not able to achieve this half an hour strike; the instructor of the KPD committee came to accuse the cell of trailing behind the SPD. [73]

Other letters were devoted to the restructuring of the organisation. With the move to clandestinity, the lack of money became a bigger problem. It had been possible to print a leaflet in 10,000 copies and to distribute it clandestinely, but only because a consignment had been seized. On 12 February he gave good news of the organisation: Karl Ludwig had brought over ten Party workers and hoped to win another 30 to 40. A circle of young people of the communist opposition was created in Berlin. The news was coming in, contacts were being made.

He gave details on the mortal crisis of the KPD:

The German Party — according to well informed people — has a million marks deficit for its press section alone. Half was wasted on futile expenditure. In some districts they are sacking their sixth or seventh treasurer, one after the other — thieves. It is characteristic, of course of the extent of unemployment but also of demoralisation inside the party.

An anecdote: in a district of Berlin, the Party organises an “alarm exercise”; out of 70 people, 14 come. They conduct a campaign of criticism, organise a second “alarm”: 12 of them turn up.

One of the most famous fighters of the party [Erich Wollenberg [74]PB] (a year in prison for agitation in the army) was on the point of coming over to us, having apparently guessed what was happening, he was summoned “over there”. He went and was forced to stay there. [75]

The news of 25 February showed a worrying development of repression. He wrote in French:

The Newspaper is not yet prohibited, but the printing works is always occupied by the police and, so it appears, they can occupy it until the elections — to destroy it all afterwards or to prohibit it? Today I have just learned — it must still be verified — that the Vorwärts has been occupied: the speed is amazing. This speed and the vigorous action against the SPD gives everything, in my opinion, a forced aspect. “Normally”, it would be advantageous, in my opinion, for the Nazis to liquidate communism first and then to deal with the SPD. The fact that they are in such a hurry and take action of such a large scale must probably have its causes within the coalition. The Nazis must have a quite immediate aim of liquidating the German nationalists. It is probably especially that which leads them into this forced acceleration. Unfortunately, nobody has information on the internal affairs of the coalition. It is said that Papen [76] threatened to resign if they continue with this campaign against the Centre, banning the Catholic newspapers, brawling, etc. and because of that that they undertook a certain retreat with regard to the Centre. [77]

A little later, the same day, he wrote, in German this time:

The last two issues of Permanent Revolution, nos. 7 and 8, were confiscated. Number 7 had already been dispatched and they found only a few copies. On the other hand, Number 8 was confiscated at the printing works (only a thousand copies had already left). The plates were probably destroyed. Functionaries were installed in the printing works yesterday evening until this afternoon. The paper was confiscated without them knowing its contents, just on the basis of what it is (...) the existence of Biulleten is also in danger. [78]

The same day, in a letter in Russian to his mother, he complained that his father did not write. He wrote:

Papa does not seem to have any clear idea at all about what is going on here. I do not even know if I will be able to put out the Biulleten. The printing works is occupied (...) It is the same question with Permanente: its existence is no more than a question of days. [79]

On 3 March, after the Reichstag fire, he informed his parents that he would take essential decisions without consulting them, in particular to leave Germany if he considered it necessary, He explained again:

From Istanbul, do you and Papa feel all the tension of emotion here? The waiting for a Nazi rising, and a counter-coup by the German nationalists with the assistance of Reichswehr; pogroms; arrests, on a large scale now, of various opponents. Scholem but also Ossietsky [80], do nothing but worsen the tension. There were some losses in the German organization: Hippe [81] and two of his group. Schöler, some members of the organisation in the provinces too. It is only the start. [82]

He continued to deal with the books which his father needed. Here or there he put a note which showed what Germany was living through: the lynching of a rabbi by the SA, torture in the police stations, the hatred which the Nazis had for Trotsky, the infiltration, which had been uncovered, of Nazis within the cadres of the KPD. He obtained a French visa, this time through the intervention of the minister Anatole de Monzie [83], “de Monsieur” as they called him among themselves. He sent Jeanne — she had returned in the interim — to reconnoitre, dressed in her most beautiful finery. Some of the archives of the IS were quite simply wrapped in silk lingerie bought specially for the circumstance and placed in the bag. She herself was “papered”, “stuffed”, she was to write [84], with documents that it was necessary to save at all costs, which gave her an unusual stoutness which did not attract the attention of the German police.

The last days had been dangerous and Liova narrowly escaped on several occasions. Erwin Ackerknecht told me in particular of a meeting in his office (he was the chief psychiatric doctor of a hospital), with Frankel [85] and Liova. The SA arrived without warning, pointing guns at everyone. The chief doctor started barking in the purest Prussian officer style at the boors who were disturbing him in his important work and sabotaging the health service of the great German nation. Intimidated, the SA withdrew. Liova telegraphed on 24 March that he was leaving. [86]

On the 25th, he was in Paris. The correspondence of his mother and father betrayed an immense relief. They had until the end trembled for their little boy, awaited in anguish the telegram announcing that he had crossed the border and that he was in Paris. However Liova continued the polemic against his father in a long letter to his mother of 7 February — the most complete he wrote:

I have just received your letter. What a calamity! You absolutely did not understand me (...) I do not want to make a ridiculous, imbecilic figure of myself: “Papa does not appreciate me”, because that is not the question. But, for example, that famous night in Marseilles, Papa sought advice from everyone but not from me, and yet I was the “first” and only one, as far as I remember, to propose the return voyage via Italy. There are innumerable facts of this kind. I remember, at the time of the return from Alma-Ata, when I had for the first time advanced a suggestion relating to Istanbul, Papa shot me down in flames … And yet what was necessary was more patience with regard to others. Nobody can learn anything by submission alone. But all these questions which are in themselves and for themselves, questions of organization, are secondary: it is possible and quite admissible to have differences of opinion. If I am not convinced by arguments, you have to let me be convinced by myself and not to drop me overboard with a load of bricks; even without bricks, in fact, I will continue to defend Papa’s point of view (as in the Frey business where I did not agree with him and where, exceptionally, it was me who was right). But I return to the question. It is completely incorrect, written in the spirit of somebody who seeks a scapegoat, what Papa wrote to me about matters in Germany. It is that and that only I meant.

Papa accuses me not only dilettantism, but of disorganization, in a certain number of factual questions which simply do not correspond to reality. Erwin and I did all that we could and without our presence, the things would have been much worse. That Well published a forgery, was not in our power to prevent (...) The charges against us are 90% baseless. I can prove it without difficulty. By reading Papa’s letter written with poison and spite, I felt once more what I had more than once felt before: that it is on the head of “the best” and those most “worthy of confidence” of those close to him that he places the mark of failure; that can hardly be a good method and does not contribute to the cause (because it oppresses “the best” instead of enabling them to raise themselves up). And in the given case, the tone itself was simply monstrous (precisely in relation to the one who had done the utmost (...) All that, Mama, undermines relationships. That is how it is. All that, for me is in the past. I am obliged to write it since you did not understand me. [87]

Arriving in Paris, at the Gare de l’Est, in the early hours of 5 March, Liova was about to rediscover all the problems of his studies, poverty, Jeanne, the International Opposition, was going to plunge into the French section and to continue to bear the heavy burden of his father’s reproaches. That is how it is, he said to himself. But he had not yet reached the end of the journey.

How long your road is, how far, Papa!


1. [RH] It was not until 12 March 1933 that Trotsky announced to the International Secretariat in Paris that he considered the KPD to have failed as a revolutionary party, and that a new party was required in Germany. It would not be until 15 July that he published the generalised conclusion that the same line applied globally, that new revolutionary parties were required everywhere and that they should be led by a new, Fourth, International. Until that change of line was completed, the sections of the International Left Opposition followed the policy of seeking to bring the parties of the Comintern back to a revolutionary approach.

2. [RH] On 30 January 1933, the workers defence organisation in Oranienburg, led by the Trotskyist Helmut Schneeweiss opened fire on the Nazis who had come to “triumph” in a workers’ district, and put them to flight. The weaponry had been hidden and maintained since the “German October” of 1923. The core of the organisation (56 members of the KPD) had been expelled from the KPD for oppositional activity — differences over the United Front — and took with them the core membership of the Anti-Fascist League of Struggle, about 100 active supporters. Schneeweiss’s group had been approached by a number of currents but was quick to ally itself to the Left Opposition. See Wolfgang Alles,German Trotskyism in the 1930s in Revolutionary History, Vol. 2 No. 3, Autumn 1989. After WW2 suspicions circulated about his involvement with the Stasi.

3. [RH] Broué’s characterisation of the origins of the SAP is open to dispute. It was formed in October 1931 led by left figures in the SPD, Kurt Rosenfeld and Max Seydewitz. Paul Lei merged his own journal with theirs, after which they were often known as the Klassenkampf group. Its membership was certainly heterogeneous, politically, but it included a substantial proportion of the revolutionaries who found no basis or possibility of working in the SPD or KPD.

4. [RH] Jeanne Martin des Pallières (1897–1961) expelled in 1929 from the French communist party for oppositional activity. Married to Raymond Molinier, but undertook a relationship with Lev Sedov while working for Trotsky at Prinkipo in 1929. After the death of Sedov she took care of Vsevolod (“Sieva”) Volkov, Sedov’s nephew and Trotsky’s grandson. Eventually an acrimonious dispute arose over the arrangements for Vsevolod when Jeanne rejected Trotsky’s demand that he should live with him in Mexico, which was eventually settled in Trotsky’s favour by the French courts. Jeanne resumed contact with Sedova and provided some important reminiscences about the life of Trotsky and his entourage in Prinkipo, in letters to Jean van Heijenoort (in Cahiers Léon Trotsky, No. 4, October 1979).

5. [RH] Gérard Rosenthal (1903–1994) founder member of the French section of the Left Opposition. Visited Trotsky in Prinkipo in 1929, thereafter representing his legal interests in France. Author of Avocat de Trotsky, 1976. Left the Fourth International and joined the Socialist Party in 1945.

6. Files of the Prefecture of Police force, Paris

7. [RH] Pacifist and humanitarian, later called for an alliance with the USSR against Hitler. (1870–1964)

8. [RH] Émile François Loubet (1838–1929), 7th President of the French Republic, 1899–1906. Succeeded to the Presidency at a key moment in the Dreyfus affair. By remitting the sentence opened the road to the defeat of the charges against Dreyfus. Was a central figure in forming the ‘Entente Cordiale’ in 1904, and the ‘Triple Entente’ of France, Britain and Russia in 1907.

9. [RH] Pacifist (1896–1919), associated with the revolutionary circles of Marcel Martinet and Romain Rolland.

10. [RH] Paul Langevin (1872 –1946) a prominent French physicist. One of the founders of the Comité de vigilance des intellectuels antifascistes, in 1934.. Removed from his senior position by the Vichy government for outspoken anti-Nazism. President of the Ligue de Droits d’Homme from 1944 to 1946 and a member of the French Communist Party at about the same time..

11. [RH] Ligue Pour Les Droits de l’Homme. League for the Rights of Man. Formed in 1898 by Ludovic Trarieux in defence of Dreyfus. Played an honourable role in defence of Victor Serge against Stalinist repression but failed to support Trotsky and the Trotskyists in the international campaign against the Moscow trials.

12. [RH] Victor Basch (1863–1944), philosopher and university teacher in France, but of Austrian Jewish origin. Co-founder of the LDH in 1898 and its fourth president in 1926. Murdered in 1944, with his wife Ilona, in Marseilles by the Milice on Nazi orders. They wrote on his body “The Jew always pays”. Author of numerous books on aesthetics and individualism.

13. [RH] Raymond Molinier (1904–1996) founder of La Verité, the journal of the French section of the Left Opposition. Gérard Roche gives a valuable summary of the political disagreements between Trotsky and Molinier in La Rupture de 1930: “Affaire Molinier” ou Divergences Politiques? in Cahiers Léon Trotsky, No. 9, January 1982. For details of the complex factional activity in which he was later to be involved see Trotsky’s The Crisis of the French Section [1935-1936], Pathfinder Press, New York 1977. In the same issue of the Cahiers, Broué in his article La “reconciliation” avec Raymond Molinier presents correspondence between Trotsky and Molinier in 1940, found in the Betty Hamilton archive. In this document his main role is that of the dispossessed husband of Jeanne (which is in no way to underestimate the importance of his political activity).

14. [RH] The second Molinier brother was Henri (1898–1944), who used the nom de guerre d’Audouin

15. [RH] Franz Pfemfert (1879–1954) former leader of the journal Die Aktion, one of the founders of the KAPD, which he left together with Otto Rühle to establish the AAUE — the “General Workers Union Unity Organisation” which rejected any direction by any political party.. Obliged to leave Czechoslovakia after Hitler’s rise to power, later living in Mexico.

16. [RH] Alexandra Pfemfert, née Ramm (1883–1963) was the main translator of Trotsky into German during the 1930s. After the death of Franz she returned to Germany.

17. [RH] Oskar Grossman (????–????), a soviet student in Berlin who would become the leader of the youth in the German Left Opposition and would undertake the struggle in clandestinity after 1934 under the nomme de guerre of Otto. In his article Ljova, le “Fiston” Broué points out that the date of Grossman’s condemnation by a Nazi tribunal mysteriously preceded that of his expulsion from the Soviet Union.

18. [RH] Boris Nikolaievsky (1886–1966), a Menshevik in exile at the time, editor of their main journal, and eminent historian.

19. [RH] Erwin H. Ackerknecht, often known as Eugen Bauer (1906–1988) first joined the revolutionary movement in a student group in Fribourg in 1924, under the influence of Pfemfert and Die Aktion. Joined the communist youth organisation in Berlin in 1926 where he quickly drew close to the positions of the Russian opposition. Joined the KPD in 1928. A founder of “Bolshevik Unity” and a collaborator with Roman Well. By 1932 however was a determined opponent of Well and collaborator with Sedov. Became the leader of the clandestine German section of the Left Opposition.

20. [RH] Otto Schűssler, known as Oskar Fischer (1901–1982), employed in Leipzig as a packer of art books, a militant in the KAPD until joining “Bolshevik Unity” in 1928. His great qualities as an autodidact and writer carried him into the leadership of the group and then of the unified opposition. Suggested by Acklerknecht to Sedov in 1932 as a potential secretary to Trosky in Prinkipo. From there he went to Prague to lead the work on Unser Wort until this work was taken on by Walter Held. Eventually became part of Trotsky’s entourage in Mexico.

21. [RH] Pierre Frank (1905–1984), son of Russian émigrés, a chemical engineer, joined the PCF in 1924 and the Left Opposition in 1927. Visited Trotsky at Prinkipo in 1932. With Molinier, opposed Trotsky’s line on exiting from the SFIO and with him founded the La Commune group when they were expelled from the Fourth International. Travelled to Britain to maintain production of Inprecor during WW2 where he was supported by Betty Hamilton but otherwise was very little in contact with the Trotskyists. Returned to France after the war to join the leadership of the Parti Communiste Internationaliste. Elected to the International Secretariat of the FI in 1963 and edited Intercontinental Press. On the breakup of the PCI, took a role in the leadership of the new Ligue Communiste until his death. Author of The Long March of the Trotskyists.

22. [RH] Juan Andrade (1898–1981). Member of the Spanish Young Socialists from 1916, editor of their paper Renovacion from 1919 to 1920. Sympathiser with the October revolution, met Borodin and M.N. Roy when they visited Spain and took part in the foundation of the Spanish Communist Party (PCE). He became a member of its Executive Committee and leader of its weekly La Antorcha. Expelled in 1027 for supporting the LO, participateds in the foundation of Izquierda Comunista and the review Communismo, which was banned in 1934. In 1935, he took part in the foundation of the POUM, characterized as “centrist” by Trotsky. During the civil war, arrested by the Stalinists and held in prison from mid-1937 to the end of 1938 along with other leaders of the POUM. Went into exile in France where he was promptly imprisoned again until 1944 when he resumed a leading role among the POUM in exile. Returned to Madrid in 1978 where he died.

23. [RH] Dmitri Yotopoulos (1901–1965), known as Vitte and Witte. A chemist by profession. From 1924 a leader of the “archeiomarxists”, a split-off from the Greek CP, named after their journal The archives of Marxism, which was recognised in 1931 as a section of the LO. Living at this time in Berlin and acting as a member of the International Secretariat.

24. [RH] Semyon Lvovich Kliatchko (????–1914) is warmly remembered by both Trotsky and Sedova in the text of My Life. A strong friendship developed between the families of Trotsky and Kliatchko during the former’s exile in Vienna.

25. AIHS Amsterdam. L. Sedov: letter of 28 February 1931.

26. [RH] Raissa Timofeievna Adler, wife of the famous psychiatrist Alfred Adler. The Adlers became friends of Trotsky during his period in Vienna before the First World War, through contact with his friend Adolf Joffe who was receiving psychoanalytic treatment at the time.

27. [RH] Alfred Adler (1870–1937) An Austrian medical doctor and psychologist, founder of the Society of Individual Psychology in 1912. Served in the Austrian army in WW1. Had to leave Austria in 1932–3 because of his Jewish heritage, and moved to the USA. Died in Scotland during a lecture tour in 1937.

28. [RH] Jacob Frank known as Max Gräf. Economist of Lithuanian origin. Led an internal opposition within the Austrian CP, which briefly unified with Landau’s group in 1931 before returning to the CP, after seeking to disrupt the Left Opposition. For some months had served as Trotsky’s secretary in Prinkipo. Had warmly recommended Roman Well (Ruvin Sobelovicius) to Trotsky as a trustworthy man.

29. [RH] Max Adler (1873–1937), leader of “Austro-Marxism”

30. [RH] Zinaida (Zina) (née Bronstein) (1901–1933) Trotsky’s first daughter by his first wife, Aleksandra Sokolovskaya. After Trotsky’s escape from Siberia in 1902 she was brought up in the main by Trotsky’s parents. Married Zakhar Moglin in 1917 with whom she had her first child Aleksandra Moglina (1923–1989). Subsequently married Platon Ivanovich Volkov with whom she had a son Vsevolod in 1926.

31. [RH] Vsevolod (diminutive Sieva, then Esteban) Volkov, born in 1926 to Zina and Platon Volkov. Traveled to Turkey and then Berlin with Zina, who had only been allowed to bring one of her children into exile with her. Following Sedov’s death was taken care of by Jeanne for some years until Trotsky obtained custody and received him in Mexico. Currently, under the name Esteban Volkov, is the custodian of the museum of Trotsky’s last house.

32. [RH] Anna Metallikova, Sedov’s wife whom he met and married in Moscow as a student.

33. [RH] Diminutive for Lev, the son of Sedov and Metallikova.

34. [RH] Jean Van Heijenoort (1912–1986), long time collaborator with Trotsky from the exile in Prinkipo to Mexico One of the secretaries of the Fourth International.

35. Mrs Vilgelmina Slavoutskaia, a former full timer for the Communist Youth International (KIM), told me she had met Anna Metallikova in a Moscow prison in 1936.

36. [RH] Bronislava (“Bronka”) Poskrebysheva (1910–1941) née Metallikov. A doctor of Jewish-Lithuanian origin. Previously married to a lawyer, with whom she had one child before marrying Aleksandr Poskrebychev. Her brother, also a doctor in service at the Kremlin, was arrested in 1937 because of his remote family connection to Trotsky. Bronka made an unsuccessful appeal to Stalin for her brother’s release. In 1939 she appealed in the same cause to Beria, whereupon she was herself arrested. Stalin is supposed to have joked with Poskrebychev “Don’t worry. We’ll find you a new wife.” Despite this, Poskrebychev remained loyal to Stalin and Beria. Bronka was shot, with numerous others, in 1941 as the German army drew near to Moscow.

37. [RH] Aleksandr Poskrebychev (1861–1965) is mentioned by Sudplatov in Special Tasks, London 1985 (p. 95) as “a short, dumpy-looking man in a green tunic” whom he later learned was “Chief of Stalin’s secretariat”. He showed Sudoplatov and Beria in to the meeting with Stalin where the order was given for the assassination of Trotsky. This description is untypically mild, and Poskrebychev is usually described in terms of personal loathing. Appointed in 1929 as Deputy Head of the Secret Section of the Secretariat of the Central Committee, he led that body from 1930 to 1952. In this capacity he controlled to a large extent access to Stalin and the flow of material from secret agents to him. His dismissal from this post has been seen as part of a campaign by Beria to erode the dying Stalin’s capabilities. Poskrebychev appears to have attracted sadistic treatment from Stalin; the Medvedyev’s report an occasion at a New Year’s Eve party when Stalin made him wear burning tubes of paper on his fingers in place of candles. Alleliyuva reports that Stalin frequently forced him to drink more than anybody else at dinner parties for the leadership.

38. [RH] Biulletin Oppozitsii, the Russian language journal, founded by Trotsky in 1929. At first printed in Paris, then moved to Berlin. Banned by Hitler in early 1933 and removed to Paris, then to Zurich in 1934, again to Paris in 1935 and eventually to New York in 1939 where it ceased to be published in 1941. The complete text in Russian is available from Pathfinder Press.

39. [RH] Kurt Landau, 1903-1937, a leading member of the Communist Party in Austria, then of a number of oppositional groupings in Vienna, Germany and Paris, including for a short time of the Left Opposition, where he led the German section between 1929 and 1930. Disappeared in Barcelona, widely believed to have been assassinated by the Stalinists.

40. [RH] Abraham Sobelovicius (1903–?) and Ruvin (1901–1962), sons of a Lithuanian industrialist who owned a factory in Leipzig. Together they formed a small oppositional group “Bolshevik Unity”, which joined the Left Opposition in 1929. Eventually they assumed the leadership of the German section of the Left Opposition which they endeavoured to destroy by publishing a statement of rapprochement with the Moscow line in Die Permanente Revolution not seen by Sedov before publication.

41. [RH] Senin was one of several pseudonyms of this individual. As Jack Soblen, in 1957 he told a US Senate Committee that he had been a GPU agent during his time as a member of the Left Opposition.

42. [RH] Ruvin Sobelovicius (1901–1962). After studying agronomy in Germany spent a year in Russia where it is likely he joined one of the secret services. Returned to Leipzig in 1927 where he studied economics and joined the KPD. Became a leader of the Left Opposition and pressed towards a split with the Landau group despite Trotsky’s cautions. Established himself in Berlin as a medical student in 1931, from where he was involved in the despatch to Russia of the Bulletin of the Opposition. By the end of 1931 Sedov was becoming concerned about his political differences in evaluation of the KPD and the Stalinist line. As Dr Robert Soblen, committed suicide in 1962 faced with prosecution as a Soviet spy.

43. [RH] See Revolutionary History, Vol. 9 No. 2 for a full discussion of “Comrade Thomas”

44. [RH] Boris Goldenberg (1908–1980) known as R. Frey, Gilbert and Bernhard Thomas. Son of a Jewish attorney, attended high school in Berlin, studied in Freiburg and Heidelberg. Joined the SPD in 1924, expelled two years later for having secretly conducted fractional activity on behalf of the KPD. Supporting the “right” line of Thalheimer and Brandler he joined the KPO and subsequently the SAP, where he adhered to the line of Walcher and Frölich. In Berlin he met Sedov and allowed him the use of his apartment for an office. Arrested and tortured by the Nazis in 1933. On his release traveled to Paris where he worked with the revolutionary left of the SFIO until 1935. By 1941, after further travels, he was in Cuba where he worked as a university teacher and journalist until 1960. Lived in London until 1964 and then returned to Germany where he was active as a translator, editor and journalist. Author of several books on Cuba and Latin America.

45. [RH] Fritz Sternberg (1895–1963). A socialist university teacher, recognised as one of the most capable of Marxist economists in his time, joined the SAP in 1931. Despite his personal support for Sedov, declined the opportunities to meet Trotsky in Prinkipo and Copenhagen. Subsequently visited Trotsky in France in 1933 or 34. Emigrated to Czechoslovakia and subsequently settled in Basle.

46. [RH] Paul Frölich (1884–1953) best known today as a biographer and editor of Rosa Luxemburg. A militant among the young socialists and the left of the social democrats before the war and an internationalist during it. Allied to Radek. A leader of the IKD in Bremen which joined the KPD(S) on its foundation. From this “leftist” position moved towards Brandler in 1922. Then followed the same evolution as Walcher through the KPD, KPO and SAP. Interned in France between 1939 and 1941 awaiting a visa for the USA. Returned to Germany in 1950 and undertook educational work in the SPD and the unions.

47. [RH] Jakob Walcher (1887–1970). Before WW1 organised a left social-democrat group in Stuttgart, joined the Spartakists during the war, a founder of the KPD(S) and one of its leaders until 1923. Supporter of the “right” line of Brandler . Called to Moscow where he worked for the Red International of Trade Unions until 1926. Expelled in 1928. With Frölich a founder in turn of the KPD and the KPO. Joined the SAP with the KPO Minority in 1932. Went to France where he operated under the name Jim Schwab. Went to New York in 1941 and returned to Bremerhaven in 1946. He was accused in footnote to Pathfinder Trotsky 1932–3 of returning to Stalinism. In fact he joined the SED and lived in the Soviet zone, aiming to improve the situation and build socialism. Sacked from his post as editor of a union journal in 1951 and rehabilitated after the “secret speech”. His memoirs were seized by the Stasi and refused publication — parts of the MS remaining missing.

48. [RH] Heinrich Brandler (1886–1967), a building worker, he was one of the rare working class leaders of the Spartakist nucleus, and, after election to the KPD Central Committee in April 1920, he became chairman of the party in February 1921, and took over the party leadership during the March action. Imprisoned from July to November, he stayed for several months in Moscow as a member of the Praesidium of the Communist International. As General Secretary of the KPD in the autumn of 1923, Stalin blamed him for the October defeat.

49. [RH] Werner Scholem (1895–1940). SPD in 1913, USPD in 1917, KPD in 1920. CC and Politbureau in 1924 under Fischer-Maslow, where with Grylewicz was involved in purging the “right”. Also under the name Gershon Scholem a scholar of Jewish mysticism. Killed in Buchenwald.

50. [RH] Karl Korsch (1886–1961). Author of Marxism and Philosophy and Karl Marx (Leipzig 1923). Former minister in the communist-socialist government in Thuringia of 1923, expelled from the KPD for “Trotskyism” in 1929. Led a small, “ultra-left” group.

51. [RH] Josef Frey (1882–1957), a founder of the Communist Party in Austria and organiser of soldiers’ councils, thereafter a leader of the Left Opposition there. Expelled from the CP in 1927. Trotsky’s document The International Left Opposition: Its Tasks and Methods turned his back on Frey and his supporters, calling for a new and independent section to be formed there. There was a complex history to the oppositional communist groups in Austria, characterised by a reluctance to join the International Left Opposition.

52. [RH] John Becher (????–????), a widely travelled American engineer who provided Sedov with information from the oppositionist Mratchkovsky, who after capitulation (later recanted) had become a factory director. In editing the Biulleten Sedov would transform Becker’s information into communications from inside Russia.

53. AHLH, Trotsky: letter to Sedov, at the beginning of December 1931.

54. AHI, Sedov: letter of 1 January 1932.

55. [RH] Ivan N. Smirnov (1881–1936), Bolshevik from 1903, worked as a mechanic, hero of the civil war, nicknamed “the conscience of the Party”. Member of the Left Opposition until 1929 when he re-entered the Party. Met Sedov by chance in Paris and agreed to provide him with information for the Bulletin of the Opposition.

56. [RH] Grigori Zinoviev (1883–1936), nom de guerre of (Ovsei-Gershon Aronovich) Radomyslsky. Old Bolshevik and supporter of Lenin from early days. First President of the Comintern. Supported Stalin’s campaign against Trotskyism and later united his supporters with those of the Left Opposition to form the “United Opposition”. Expelled 1927, capitulated and was readmitted in 1933, framed in the first “Moscow Trial” of 1936 and executed.

57. International Institute of Social History. Amsterdam, Sedov: letter to N.I. Sedova, 1 January 1933.

58. [RH] Heinz Epe, known as Walter Held (1910–1941), a member of the LO in Germany as a student. Went abroad to escape the Gestapo by whom he had been condemned to death. From Prague he led the new journal Unser Wort (Our Word), and for a time occupied a mid-way position, supporting Trotsky on the need for a new German party but not for a new International.

59. [RH] Real name Karl Gröhl. For details see Revolutionary History, Vol. 8 No. 4, where chapters of his memoirs are translated.

60. [RH] Kurt von Schleicher (1882–1934). General. Chancellor between December 1932 and January 1933, murdered by the Nazis in June 1934.

61. [RH] Ernst Thälmann (1886–1944), Chairman of the KPD from October 1925 until arrested in March 1933. Shot in Buchenwald August 1944.

62. [RH] Carl Severing (1875–1952), Prussian Interior Minister (1920–26, 1930–32) and also German Interior Minister (1928–30). In 1921 sent troops against workers in the Halle district, leading to the March Action.

63. AHLH, Sedov: letter with N.I. Sedova, 27 July 1932.

64. [RH] Solomon Kharine, known as “Joseph”, a Russian supporter of the International Left Opposition, and a member of the commercial delegation in Paris, was apparently influenced by Radek’s statement of capitulation to Stalin in 1929, and offered to provide information to the GPU. He provided addresses and documents, including the complete text of the first issue of the Bulletin of the Opposition. See Broué’s article Un capitulard à Paris: l’affaire Kharine in the Cahiers Léon Trotsky, Issue 7/8, 1981.

65. [RH] Fritz Belleville (1903–1994), proofreader and researcher in social sciences at Frankfurt. Joined the young communists in 1919 and the KPD in 1922. Became part of the “Left” and was their spokesman at the 1926 Franfurt Congress, for which he was expelled. A member of the Korsch group until its dissolution, and then of the Leninbund, where he joined the leadership in 1932. In September of the same year he joined the Left Opposition and was co-opted onto the leadership. Emigrated to Basle shortly after and founded the Marxist Students Group, and then the Swiss section of the LO, but split from them over policy differences. Took no further part in organised politics but lectured in workers education programmes.

66. [RH] Diminutive for Vsevolod Volkov (b. 1926), son of Platon Volkov and Zinaida.

67. [RH] Kurt von Schleicher (1882–1934), the last Chancellor of the Weimar Republic. Shot during the “night of the long knives” 20 June 1934.

68. AHLH, Sedov: Telegram of 5 January 1933.

69. AHI, letter to Sedova of 24 January 1933.

70. [RH] Ivan N. Smirnov (1881–1936), Bolshevik from 1903, worked as a mechanic, hero of the civil war, nicknamed “the conscience of the Party”. Member of the Left Opposition until 1929 when he re-entered the Party. Met Sedov by chance in Paris and agreed to provide him with information for the Bulletin of the Opposition.

71. [RH] Yevgeni Preobrazhensky (1886–1937), old Bolshevik, member of the Party secretariat during the civil war, the main economic thinker of the Left Opposition until he capitulated to Stalin in 1929.

72. [RH] Paul von Hindenburg (1837–1934), Field Marshal and former commander in chief of the imperial German army. Played a central part in the repression of the workers revolution of 1918–1919. Elected president of the republic in 1925 as the right wing candidate. Re-elected in 1932, with the support, in the second round, of the SPD against Hitler. As president he called Hitler to take the Chancellorship.

73. AHI, Sedov: letter of 3 February 1933.

74. [RH] Erich Wollenberg (1882–1973). After volunteering for the German army in WW1, became disgusted with the slaughter and joined the revolutionaries in 1918 and supported the KPD. Led military activities for the Munich Council Republic and subsequently in other parts of Germany. For a brief biography, see the introduction to his book The Red Army, New Park, 1978, which however has been modified by later research not yet available in English..

75. AHI, Sedov: letter of 12 February 1933.

76. [RH] Franz von Papen (1879–1969), Deputy of the catholic Centre Party, subsequently of the German nationals. Chancellor of the Reich from June to November 1932.

77. AHI, Sedov: letter of 25 February 1933. in Russian.

78. AHI, Sedov: letter of 25 February 1933. in German.

79. AHI, Sedov: letter of 25 February in Russian with his mother.

80. [RH] Probably a reference to Carl von Ossietzky (1889–1938), a leading pacifist and anti-militarist organiser and writer, founder of the Republican Party, exposed Germany’s secret re-armament in violation of the Versailles Treaty, arrested following the Reichstag fire, mistreated in concentration camps, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1936, died in civilian hospital but still under guard in 1938.

81. [RH] Oskar Hippe (1900–1990), metalworker and trade unionist in 1916 when he became associated with the Berlin Spartakists. Called up in 1918. A founder of the KPD, and member of its left wing in the 1920s. A founder of the Leninbund in 1928, and together with Grylewicz led the left wing to become the German section of the International Left Opposition. Led the Berlin-Charlottenburg group of the LO. Well falsely claimed his support. Imprisoned for two years by the Nazis, and sentenced to twenty-five by the Stalinists in East Germany. Released in 1956

82. AHI, Sedov: letter of 3 March 1933.

83. [RH] Anatole de Monzie (1876–1947), member of the Republican Socialist Party (PRS), held a total of 18 ministerial posts during a long career. Campaigned in 1922 for French recognition of the Soviet Union, and worked with Rakovsky to that end.

84. [RH] Jeanne Martin de Pallières, Letters to Jean van Heijenoort, Cahiers Léon Trotsky, No. 4. October 1979.

85. [RH] Jan Frankel (1906–1984), joined the Czechoslovak CP in his youth, associated with a dissident tendency that eventually became the Trotskyist movement. An important organiser of the International Left Opposition.

86. AHI, Sedov: telegram 24 March 1933.

87. AHI, Sedov: letter of 7 February 1933.

Last updated on 1.11.2011