J.R. Johnston

On the Anniversary of the Mexican Hearing

Trotsky’s Summation Speech

(21 April 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 16, 21 April 1947, p. 5.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

On April 17, 1937, Professor John Dewey and the commission which investigated Stalin’s charges against Trotsky held its last session in Mexico City. The session consisted for the most part of a closing speech in which Trotsky summed up the case for his defense. Ten years almost to a day have now elapsed. We shall gain much if we re-examine for a brief moment what took place on that April afternoon. The last words of Trotsky’s speech are worth preserving.

“Esteemed Commission! The experience of my life, in which there has been no lack either of successes or of failures, has not only not destroyed my faith in the clear, bright future, but, on the contrary, has given it an indestructible temper. This faith in reason, in truth, in human solidarity, which at the age of eighteen took with me into the workers’ quarters of the provincial town of Nikoliaev – this faith I have preserved fully and completely. It has become more mature, but not less ardent. In the very fact of your commission’s formation – in the fact that, at its head, is a man of unshakable moral authority, a man who by virtue of his age should have the right to remain outside of the skirmishes in the political arena – in this fact I see a new and truly magnificent reinforcement of the revolutionary optimism which constitutes the fundamental element of my life.”

The revolutionary optimism of Trotsky was based upon his conviction that the “truth will out,” particularly truth in which millions of men all over the world are interested. What has happened during the past ten years to justify this?

The Charge of Sabotage

First of all, charges of sabotage, of stealing, of robbing the people, etc., in one form or another, still continue to distinguish the Stalinist regime in Russia. They fill the press and they excite interest (and very often derision) in all parts of the world. People are so familiar with them by now that most political minded persons read such material that comes out carefully in order to be able to judge what is the new policy that the Russian rulers are trying to carry through. Tomorrow there may be violent charges of conspiracy with foreigners in order to destroy “the building of socialism in the USSR.” It is possible that the name of Trotsky will be associated with this kind of police politics. It is possible, but not likely. Some other skapegoat, some other of Stalin’s enemies, will have to fill the role that Trotsky filled in the years around 1937. A few short years have exposed to the depths the fact that the Moscow Trials and the anti-Trotskyist campaigns of Stalinism were neither more nor less than the totalitarian and murderous politics needed for justifying their regime.

In his speech Trotsky called sabotage “the political basis of the accusation.” Sabotage, he explained, was the totalitarian method of excusing itself for the failures and breakdowns of its bureaucratic regime. Let us remember this for the future. In the Stalinist reconversion period immediately after the war the old cry of sabotage was raised. As the inevitable economic crisis begins to rock the regime in the coming period, we shall once more hear the same cry and the same charges against whomever Stalin considers to be the particular enemy of the moment. We shall know how to distinguish true from false in that regime, ridden from top to bottom with lies and liars.

But it is not only in regard to Russia itself that the truth has been made plain. Over vast areas of Western Europe the Red Army and the bureaucracy have established their domination. And straightaway the political lies, the fantastic charges, the arrests, the assassinations, the judicial murders have become the daily routine in these countries.

Fascism at any rate did not deceive the working masses in the countries which it invaded. It could enchain and enslave and perhaps demoralize them. But the systematic corruption of the working class movement is the special task of Stalinism. Millions who might have been doubtful before are now living through an experience which helps to make them accurate and acute judges of the charges by which the Stalinist regime attempts to defend itself for its incompetence and its crimes.

Of the charges which Trotsky repudiated that April afternoon, none was so fantastic as the one that he had conspired with the rulers of Germany and Japan to destroy the Russian state. We have lived to see the Stalinist regime declare that its pact with Hitler was “sealed in blood.” Today we know that Hitler attacked Stalin in 1941 because the terms that Stalin demanded for a continuance of the alliance were, at that moment at least, too high for Hitler to pay. Many of the areas which Stalin dominates or threatens today were part of the price that he demanded for the continuation of the pact “sealed in blood.”

Truth Will Out

As the quarrel between Russia and Anglo-American imperialism grows sharper, we can be certain that the documentary proofs of all this which are now in the possession of the British and Americans will be published. The truth will out. It is a warning to those who allow themselves, if even for a moment, to be caught by the monstrous and crude concoctions which were paraded before the world as evidence against the forty years •of revolutionary activity by Trotsky and the principles of the organization which he headed.

Finally, we in the United States have had an exceptional opportunity by which to test the validity of the accusations against which Trotsky defended himself in 1937. We have seen the American Stalinist, Earl Browder, carry out a policy during the war which sought to tie the American working class to the wheel of the American war machine. The Stalinists excelled all other sections of the population in the lies, the violence and the corruption by which they tried to stifle the anti-war feelings of the masses and to subject them to the “anti-fascist” lying promises and coercion of American imperialism.

Trotsky’s speech, which can be found in The Case of Leon Trotsky, should be read and reread by those who wish to understand the barrage of lies and deceptions which constituted the Moscow Trials and still constitute the political method of the police state. In it are expressed, above all, his conviction that the enemies of socialism will be overthrown whatever the power they may appear to wield at a particular time. To Philistines and cowards, the defense carried on ten years ago against the mighty power of the Stalinist bureaucracy might have seemed hopeless. Today, Trotsky is vindicated not only in books but in the lives and experience of scores of millions of workers.

Last updated on 6 January 2022