Leon Trotsky

Open Letter to the
Workers of the USSR

(29 March 1929)

Written: March 29, 1929.
First Published: The Militant, New York, Vol. 2, No. 9, May 1–15, 1929.
Source: Microfilm collection and original bound volumes for The Militant provided by the Holt Labor Library, San Francisco, California.
Transcription\HTML Markup: D. Walters.
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Dear Comrades:

I write to you in order to tell you again that Stalin, Yaroslavsky, and the others are deceiving you. They say that I made use of the bourgeois press in order to carry on a struggle against the Soviet republic, in whose creation and defence I worked hand in hand with Lenin. They are deceiving you. I used the bourgeois press in order to defend the interests of the Soviet republic against the lies, trickery, and perfidy of Stalin and Company.

They ask you to condemn my articles. Have you read them? No, you have not read them. They are giving you a false translation of separate fragments. My articles have been published in the Russian language in a special booklet in exactly the form in which I wrote them. Demand that Stalin reprint them without abbreviations or falsifications. He dare not do it. He fears the truth more than anything else. Here I want to summarize the contents of my articles.

1. In the resolution of the GPU on my deportation, it states that I am conducting “preparations for an armed struggle against the Soviet republic.” In Pravda (number 41, February 19, 1929) the statement about armed struggle was omitted. Why? Why did Stalin not dare repeat in Pravda what was said in the resolution of the GPU? Because he knew that no one would believe him. After the history of the Wrangel officer, after the exposure of the agent provocateur sent by Stalin to the Oppositionists with the proposal of a military plot, no one will believe that the Bolshevik-Leninists, desiring to convince the party of the correctness of their views, are preparing an armed struggle. That is why Stalin did not dare print in Pravda what was stated in the resolution of the GPU of January 18.

But if that is true, why introduce this obvious lie into the resolution of the GPU? Not for the USSR but for Europe, and for the whole outside world. Through the Tass news agency Stalin daily and systematically cooperated with the bourgeois press of the whole world, propagating his slander against the Bolshevik-Leninists. Stalin can in no other way explain this banishment and his innumerable arrests, except by accusing the Opposition of preparing an armed struggle. With this monstrous lie he has done enormous harm to the Soviet republic. The whole bourgeois press has discussed the fact that Trotsky, Rakovsky, Smilga, Radek, I.N. Smirnov, Byeloborodov, Muralov, Mrachkovsky, and many others who built the Soviet republic and defended it, are now preparing an armed struggle against Soviet power. It is obvious how such an idea must weaken the Soviet republic in the eyes of the whole world. In order to justify his repressions, Stalin is compelled to compose these monstrous legends, doing incalcu-lable harm to Soviet power. That is why I considered it necessary to appear in the bourgeois press and say to the whole world: It is not true that the Opposition intends to wage an armed struggle against Soviet power. The Opposition has waged and will wage a ruthless struggle for Soviet power against all its enemies. This declaration of mine has been printed in newspapers with a circulation of tens of millions in all the languages of the world. It will serve to strengthen the Soviet republic. Stalin wants to strengthen his position at the expense of the Soviet republic. I want to strengthen the Soviet republic by exposing the lies of the Stalinists.

2. Stalin and his press have for a long time been propagating the statement all over the world that I maintain that the Soviet republic has become a bourgeois state, that the proletarian power is wrecked, etc. In Russia, many workers know that this is a vicious slander, that it is built on falsified quotations. I have exposed these falsifications dozens of times in letters which have been circulated from hand to hand. But the outside bourgeois press believes them, or pretends to believe them. All these counterfeit Stalinist quotations appear in the columns of the newspapers of the world as a demonstration of the assertion that Trotsky considers the fall of Soviet power inevitable. Thanks to the enormous interest of international public opinion and especially that of the broad popular masses in what is being created in the Soviet republic, the bourgeois press, impelled by its business interests, its desire for circulation, the demands of its readers, was compelled to print my articles. In those articles I said to the whole world that Soviet power, in spite of the misleading policies of the Stalin leadership, is deeply rooted in the masses, is very powerful, and will outlive its enemies.

You must not forget that the overwhelming majority of the workers in Europe, and especially in America, still read the bourgeois press. I made it a condition that my articles should be printed without the slightest change. It is true that certain papers in a few countries violated this condition, but the majority fulfilled it. In any case all the papers were compelled to publish the fact that, in spite of the lies and slanders of the Stalinists, Trotsky is convinced of the deep inner power of the Soviet régime and firmly believes that the workers will succeed by peaceful measures in changing the present false policy of the Central Committee.

In the spring of 1917 Lenin, imprisoned in Switzerland, employed a “sealed train” of the Hohenzollerns in order to get to the Russian workers. The chauvinist press attacked Lenin, going so far as to call him a German agent and address him as Herr Lenin. Imprisoned by the Thermidorians in Constantinople, I employed the bourgeois press as a sealed train in order to speak the truth to the whole world. The attacks of the Stalinists against “Mr. Trotsky,” stupid in their intemperance, are nothing but a repetition of the bourgeois and Socialist Revolutionary attacks upon “Herr Lenin.” Like Lenin I regard with tranquil contempt the public opinion of the philistines and bureaucrats whose spirit Stalin represents.

3. I told in my articles, distorted and falsified by Yaroslavsky, how, why, and under what circumstances I was banished from the USSR. The Stalinists are propagating rumours in the European press to the effect that I was permitted to leave Russia at my own request. I exposed this lie. I told how I was sent over the border forcibly after a preliminary agreement between Stalin and the Turkish police. And here I acted not only in the interests of my own personal defence against slander, but first of all in the interests of the Soviet republic. If the Oppositionists really desired to leave the borders of the Soviet Union, that would be understood by the whole world as a sign that they considered the situation of the Soviet government hopeless. We have not the shadow of such a thought. The Stalinist policies have dealt a terrible blow not only to the Chinese revolution, the British working-class movement, and the entire Comintern, but also to the internal stability of the Soviet régime. That is indisputable. However, the situation is not in the least hopeless. The Opposition in no case intends to fly from Soviet Russia. I categorically refused to cross the border, proposing instead that they should imprison me. The Stalinists did not dare resort to that measure; they were afraid that the workers would insistently demand my liberation. They preferred to make a bargain with the Turkish police, and they transported me to Constantinople by main force. This I explained to the whole world. Every thinking worker will say that if Stalin through Tass daily feeds the bourgeois press with slanders against the Opposition, then I was obliged to publish a refutation of these slanders.

4. In tens of millions of newspapers I told the whole world that it was not the Russian workers who exiled me, nor the Russian peasants, nor the Soviet Red Guards, nor those with whom we conquered power and fought shoulder to shoulder on all fronts in the civil war. It was the bureaucrats who exiled me, people who have got the power into their hands and converted themselves into a bureaucratic caste bound together by a solidarity of privilege. In order to defend the October Revolution, the Soviet republic, and the revolutionary name of the Bolshevik-Leninists, I told the whole world the truth about Stalin and the Stalinists. I reminded them again that Lenin in his maturely considered testament described Stalin as disloya l. That word is understood in all the languages of the world. It means an untrustworthy or dishonest man who is guided in his activities by bad motives, a man whom you cannot trust. That is how Lenin characterized Stalin, and we see again how correct Lenin’s warning was. There is no worse crime for a revolutionist than to deceive his party, to poison the mind of the working class with lies. And that is at present Stalin’s chief occupation. He is deceiving the Comintern and the international working class, attributing to the Opposition counter-revolutionary intentions and activities in relation to Soviet power. Exactly because of his inward inclination to that kind of activity, Lenin called Stalin disloyal. Exactly for that reason, Lenin proposed to the party that Stalin be removed from his post. So much the more necessary now, after all that has happened, to explain to the whole world what Stalin’s disloyalty consists of—that is, his perfidy and dishonesty in relation to the Opposition.

5. The slanderers (Yaroslavsky and the other agents of Stalin) are raising a hullabaloo on the subject of American dollars. Otherwise it would hardly be worthwhile to stoop to this rubbish. But the most vicious bourgeois newspapers take satisfaction in spreading Yaroslavsky’s dirt. In order to leave nothing unclear I will therefore tell you about the dollars.

I gave my articles to an American press agency in Paris. Lenin and I, dozens of times, have given interviews and written expositions of our views on one question or another to such agencies. Thanks to my expulsion and the mysterious circum-stances of it, the interest in this matter throughout the world was colossal. The agency counted on a good profit. It offered me half the income. I answered that I personally would not take a cent, but that the agency should deliver, at my direction, a half of its income from my articles, and that with this money I will publish in the Russian language and in foreign languages a whole series of Lenin’s writings (his speeches, articles, letters) which are suppressed in the Soviet republic by the Stalinist censorship. I will also use this money to publish a whole series of important party documents (reports of conferences, congresses, letters, articles, etc.) which are concealed from the party because they clearly demonstrate the theoretical and political bankruptcy of Stalin. This is the “counter-revolutionary” (according to Stalin and Yaroslavsky) literature that I intend to publish. An accurate account of the sums expended in this way will be published when the time comes. Every worker will say that it is infinitely better to publish the writings of Lenin with money received in the form of an accidental contribution from the bourgeoisie than to propa-gate slanders against the Bolshevik-Leninists with money collected from the Russian workers and peasants.

Do not forget, comrades: the testament of Lenin remains as before a counter-revolutionary document in Russia, for the circulation of which you are arrested and exiled. And that is not accidental. Stalin is waging a struggle against Leninism on an international scale. There remains hardly one country in the world where at the head of the Communist Party today stand those revolutionists who led the party in the days of Lenin. They are almost all expelled from the Communist International. Lenin guided the first four congresses of the Comintern. Together with Lenin I drew up all the fundamental documents of the Comintern. At the Fourth Congress, in 1922, Lenin divided equally with me the fundamental report on the New Economic Policy and the perspectives of the international revolution. After the death of Lenin, almost all the participants, at any rate all without exception of the influential participants of the first four congresses, were expelled from the Comintern. Everywhere in the world at the heads of the Communist parties stand new, accidental people, who arrived yesterday from the camp of our opponents and enemies. In order to adopt an anti-Leninist policy, it was necessary first to overthrow the Leninist leadership. Stalin has done this, relying upon the bureaucracy, upon new petty-bourgeois circles, upon the state apparatus, upon the GPU, and upon the financial resources of the state. This has been carried through not only in the USSR, but also in Germany, in France, in Italy, in Belgium, in the United States, in the Scandinavian countries—in a word, in almost every country in the world.

Only a blind man could fail to understand the meaning of the fact that the closest colleagues and comrades-in-arms of Lenin in the Soviet Communist Party and the whole Comintern, all the leaders of the Communist parties in the first hard years, all the participants and leaders of the first four congresses, almost to a man, have been removed from their posts, slandered, and expelled. This mad struggle against the Leninist leadership was necessary to the Stalinists in order to carry through an anti-Leninist policy.

When they were hounding the Bolshevik-Leninists, they reassured the party by saying that it would now be monolithic. You know that the party is now more divided than ever. And this is not the end. There is no salvation on the Stalinist road. You can adopt either an Ustryalovist policy—that is, a consistently Thermidorian policy—or a Leninist policy. The centrist position of Stalin inevitably leads to an accumulation of enormous economic and political difficulties and to the continual decima-tion and destruction of the party.

It is still not too late to alter the course. It is necessary to abruptly change the policy and the party régime in the spirit of the Opposition platform. It is necessary to put an end to the shameful persecution of the best revolutionary Leninists in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and in the whole world. It is necessary to restore the Leninist leadership. It is necessary to condemn and root out the disloyal, that is, untrustworthy and dishonest, methods of the Stalin apparatus. The Opposition is ready with all its might to help the proletarian kernel of the party to fulfil this vital task. Rabid persecution, dishonest slanders, and governmental repressions cannot dim our loyalty to the October Revolution or to the international party of Lenin. We will remain true to them both to the end—in the Stalinist prisons and in exile.


With Bolshevik greetings,
Leon Trotsky

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Last updated on: 28 May 2021