How Trotsky Was Expelled
From Norway by Trygve Lie

(26 August 1936)

Written: 26 August 1925.
First Published: The Nation, 1936.
Reprinted: Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 23, 9 June 1947, p. 6.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive (29 October 2022).
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive ( 2022. Creative Commons (Share & Attribute).

Trygve Lie is the Secretary of the United Nations. He is also torn between the pressures of the Anglo-American and the Russian blocs in the UN, balancing himself perilously between these rival imperialists. At one time bending before the one, at another time, before the other. Yielding to the big powers, or the stronger nation has been an old habit with Lie.

One of the first and most glaring examples of this occurred back in 1935. At that time, Leon Trotsky had found a haven in Norway, seeking to escape the human hounds of Stalin’s GPU. The Moscow Frame-up Trials were then going strong and a horrified world watched a spineless Norwegian government succumb to Moscow’s demand for the expulsion of Trotsky on the ground that he was a murderer and had intervened in Norwegian politics!

It goes without saying, that Trotsky demanded that Stalin extradite him from Norway – an act which would have required a public hearing on the charges of the Russian secret police. The frame-up artists of Moscow dared not make this demand. They knew that their lies and frame-ups would be exposed before the whole world. What is more, they didn’t have to.

They succeeded in reaching out for Trotsky through Trygve Lie, then Minister of Justice of Norway. It was he who forced the expulsion of Trotsky from that country, an act which showed the essential culpability of the man. The following letter of Trotsky to Lie describes how the Moscow frame-up reached into Norway to strike at Stalin’s most powerful opponent, the. outstanding Marxist of our times.Editors)


To Mr. Lie
Minister of Justice, Oslo


I HAVE always endeavored to comply with the conditions governing my stay in Norway, both in the letter and in the spirit, at least as I understood them. It develops, however, that the Chief of the Central Passport Office has interpreted these conditions in quite a different manner and as far as I am aware, his interpretation is approved by you, the Minister. As I am deeply concerned in further enjoying for myself end my wife the favor of the Norwegian institutions, I would be prepared t2o accept this interpretation of the conditions of which I was not made aware before my coming to Norway if I could get the conviction that this new interpretation could be reconciled with my dignity as a human being and as a writer. I can only sign what I have clearly understood and. what I can really undertake to fulfill.

According to the Chief of the Central Passport Office, who, incidentally, when I came into the country, gave we a somewhat hostile interview without waiting for any action of any kind on my part, my activities are to be confined solely to “historical works and general theoretical essays which are not directed against any country.”

How am I to interpret this limitation? Is for example my autobiography a general theoretical essay or a topical political work? Three weeks ago I wrote a detailed analysis of the development of the Soviet Union. I myself am compelled to pass judgment now. I have the impression that this work contributes no small service to social science. On the other hand, this work, by the mere concrete analysis of fact, is directed against the ruling bureaucratic caste which is continuing to exploit the people economically and suppress it politically. Is it really possible in a democratic country to accept the stricture that a Chief of the Passport Office may decide whether this work is only scientific or also politically topical?

The Case Of Marx

I could quote an incomparably greater and more worthy example. My great teacher and master, Karl Marx, wrote a book called Capital. I try to imagine for a moment that the Chief of the Passport Office or any other authority had to decide whether this grandiose work was only scientific or whether it also had a topical political character. The decision would not be easy to make for this work built upon the granite foundations of science is illustrated by thousands of topical examples and has as a whole today far greater political importance thin on the day of its appearance. It is not a coincidence that the whole struggle of reaction, of the official and unofficial type, is directed against Marxism and Marxists.

The Chief of the Passport Office reproaches me for an article in which I took the position that the struggle in France could only end with a victory for military reaction or with the building of Soviets. Perhaps I am mistaken in my analysis. In any case I attribute to this analysis a thoroughly scientific character. The article in question appeared in. the universally known bourgeois-democratic American journal The Nation. If I had written an article in which I explained theoretically the general advantages of an autocratic regime over democracy, would this article have been disapproved by the Chief of the Passport Office? Unfortunately, this question is not yet clear to me, especially after the visit I had today from the Chief of the Passport Office.

The declaration demanded of me includes also a promise “not to allow myself to be interviewed by any Norwegian or foreign journalists.” During the whole of my stay in Norway up tp the last days I have given only one single interview, that is to the editor of Arbeiderbladet, and this, Sir, in your own presence and even with you kindly taking part, which even now I appreciate. You may perhaps recall that I personally tried to avoid even this single interview in order to provoke as little noise and sensation as possible in connection with my name.

Lie’s Democracy

But now the situation is different. I have been accused by the judicial authorities in Moscow of being the organizer of terrorist acts. The whole world press is dealing with this historical trial. If you, as Minister of Justice, or the authorities controlled by you, or the Norwegian government deem it possible or likely that I have misused my sojourn in Norway ... or anywhere else for this. kind of activity, I expect immediately a warrant for my arrest. I desire nothing else, but to have the opportunity to firing into the light of day, before an open judicial forum, this monstrous crime of the GPU and of the powers behind it. But if the Norwegian authorities deem it impossible to interfere in this matter, they have the duty – I repeat, the elementary duty, which is not necessarily even a democratic one – to allow me complete liberty to tell the truth to the whole world by the means at my individual disposal. The principal means of informing public opinion is through the press. To refrain from bringing me to trial before a Norwegian court and at the same time to rob me of the possibility to appeal to public opinion on a question that concerns myself, my son, my whole political past and my political honor would mean to transform the right of asylum into a trap and to allow free passage to the executioners and slanderers of the GPU.

These are the reasons which make it impossible for me to fulfill the demand of the Chief of the Central Passport Office to sign the declaration which he has presented to me without drawing the attention of the government and of public opinion in advance to the unforeseeable consequences of such action for the moral existence of myself and my family.

August 26, 1936

Leon Trotsky


Note: At the urgent request of the Minister of Justice this letter was not published as originally intended. All copies were forcibly removed from Trotsky’s secretaries. By chance, one copy had already been sent abroad, giving us the opportunity – after considerable delay – of bringing the document before the public.


Erwin Wolfe
Jean von Heijenoort

Secretaries to Leon Trotsky

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Last updated on: 29 October 2022