Leon Trotsky

Stalin’s Order
to Demyan Bedny

“A Jingle to Please the ‘Master’”

(April 1936)

Written: April 11, 1936
First Published: New Militant [New York], February 26, 1936 [From Holt Labor Library Collection].
Translated: New Militant.
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

The reactionary littérateur Aldanov, who writes historical novels which treat the emancipatory movement of mankind from the standpoint of an alarmed philistine, has occupied himself of late with writing historical notations to the October Revolution. In one of his feuilletons, basing himself on a ludicrous analysis of the budget of Pravda for the year 1917, he attempts to prove that the Bolsheviks did “just the same” receive German money. To be sure, in the process, the multi-million subsidy is reduced to a very modest sum; but, in return, the moral and mental equipment of the historian himself rises to its heights.

In a subsequent feuilleton Aldanov recounts how Trotsky, in June 1918, informed the German diplomat Count Mirbach, that we Bolsheviks “are already dead, but there is as yet nobody around able to bury us.” Mirbach himself, as is well known, was killed shortly after June by the left SRs. This story, retailing the words of one Botmer, who in turn quotes the dead diplomat, is so absurd in itself that it is hardly worthy of notice. In June 1918 – and, therefore, just in the period between the time the rapacious Brest-Litovsk peace was signed and the day he left for the front in Kazan – Trotsky gave secret information – and to whom? to a diplomat of Hohenzollern! – to the effect that Bolshevism was “already dead.” This is a case of slander passing into raving.

But there is always a consumer for anything vile. And one was found in this case also. The January 30 issue of Pravda carries several yards of Demyan Bedny’s jingles in which the account of Botmer-Aldanov is taken to be an incontrovertible truth, and as the final proof of Trotsky’s “permanent treachery.” Today, Pravda is the personal organ of Stalin. Demyan Bedny fulfils a personal order. Today, Pravda does not venture as yet to carry verses relating how Lenin and Trotsky received money from the German general staff, but the moral evolution of the Bonapartist bureaucracy is nevertheless proceeding in this direction. To Aldanov, at any rate, the receipt of the Hohenzollern subsidy by the Bolsheviks and Trotsky’s conversation with a Hohenzollern diplomat constitute an entity. In Pravda, together with its “poet,” the single whole does not emerge as yet. But, never mind! The order was fulfilled. The meaning of the order is expressed in the following quatrain:

Too bad, indeed, that in Berlin
They, before us, this news did learn!
The route, for such leaders, is a march
To hell, from where there’s no return.

This “poetical” conclusion is of course based not upon a fictitious conversation years ago but upon the actual events in our own time. The Fourth International is a dire threat to these gentlemen. The growth of the Leninist (“Trotskyist”) Opposition in the USSR frightens the usurpers. That is why they find it necessary to seek inspiration from Aldanov-Botmer.

Yet, once upon a time, this same Bedny also wrote about Trotsky in a somewhat different tone, and, moreover, in the very heat of the civil war, at a time when men and ideas found themselves subjected to a serious test. Apropos of a rumour alleging that General Denikin, the chief of the White Army, was making preparations to have himself crowned, Demyan Bedny published in Izvestia, some sixteen months after the alleged declarations of Trotsky to Mirbach, the following verses:

Strike no hero’s poses, king!
Our deuce will do the covering.
Our aim is sure, we are no chumps,
For ours is the deuce of trumps.
Lenin-Trotsky, there’s our deuce,
Try to match it, if you choose!
Why, Denikin, the sudden blues?
There is no covering our deuce.

Aldanov, incidentally, also quotes this ditty; but in contrast to the conversation with Mirbach, it does not happen to be an invention but an absolutely genuine product of Demyan’s creative efforts. It was printed in Izvestia, October 19, 1919.

Repulsive as it is to probe into this mess, we hope that the reader will bear with us: a few rhymed lines can convey much better the atmosphere of 1919 and the then prevailing mood in the party than all the latest luxuriant growths of falsifications and calumny. “Lenin-Trotsky, there’s our deuce.” How is that? How could a man who gave out treacherous statements to the august ambassador of the kaiser turn up on the same “deuce” with Lenin? And where is Stalin? Is it possible that Demyan Bedny, who lived in the Kremlin, who met all the top leaders in the party, who, it is even told, used to sup in the dining room of the Council of People’s Commissars – is it possible that Demyan Bedny remained unaware of the fact that the “deuce” was – Lenin-Stalin? Or it may be that Demyan Bedny was unacquainted with Stalin? No. Bedny worked with Stalin in the legal Bolshevik publications back in 1911, and perhaps even earlier. He was well acquainted with Stalin, with Stalin’s past, his specific weight, his intellectual resources. Demyan knew very well what he was writing. And if he did not know, how did Izvestia, the official government organ, happen to print verses in which Trotsky’s name creeps in by mistake instead of Stalin’s? Or, was it merely done, perhaps, for the sake of a rhyme? And, finally, why and how did the party keep quiet about these sacrilegious verses? We ought to add that in those days no one ordered laudatory verses from Demyan Bedny – we had occasion for different things at that time, and besides, the people were different – the verses simply expressed what was in the air.

History is not a heap of old rags that can be placed into a machine and converted into clean paper. A Russian proverb says: “What is written down with a pen cannot be hacked away with an axe.” The history of those years was written not merely with a pen – at any rate, not only with the pen of Demyan Bedny. If in 1919 Bedny, picked up by the great wave, on his own initiative executed the literary order of the masses, then in 1936 he fulfils only the order of Stalin. This customer pursues aims which are not at all literary but purely practical. Demyan Bedny, as we already know, was ordered to provide the formula for the necessity of sending Trotsky to a place “from where there’s no return.”

Stalin is obviously making preparations to entrust the fulfilment of this task to the “poets” from the school of Yagoda, the general commissar.

And that is how we record it!

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Last updated on: 19.4.2007