Leon Trotsky

Trotsky Tells of ‘Letter’ from Victim of G.P.U.

(August 1938)

Written: 1 August 1938.
First Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 33, 13 August 1938, p. 3.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

This morning, August 1, I received a letter apparently in the handwriting of Rudolf Klement, in German. The letter is dated July 14 and presumably went via Paris and New York. The handwriting is undoubtedly similar to the handwriting of Klement but bears an extremely uneven, sickly and feverish character. The letter peculiarly is signed, “Frederic”. As to its contents it is one of the most fantastic documents that I have ever held in my hands. To start with, the salutation – all the preceding letters of Klement, including those written just a few days before, begin with the words: “Dear Comrade” or “Dear L.D.” (my initials). This last letter begins with the words, “Mr. Trotsky.” From beginning to end the letter presents an incoherent piling up of accusations against the Fourth International, against me personally, and against my deceased son.

The accusations are of two kinds: the first – clearly dictated by the G.P.U. – the inevitable “bloc” with fascism and connection with the Gestapo; the second – a series of accusations concerning single episodes from the internal life of the Fourth International which seem to make an attempt at explaining the sudden change in Klement’s position. Past History Forgotten

What is most striking is that the content of the letter in all its details stands in direct and clear contradiction to hundreds of letters written by the same Klement up until a very short time ago to me personally and to mutual friends. The letter is written as if the past had not existed at all. Only a person tied hand and food physically and morally could write like this and then only under the dictation of other people absolutely unfamiliar with Klement’s past but who wanted to make use of him for their purposes.

Theoretically it could still be assumed that Klement has lost his mind. But in this case the puzzle remains as to why his delirium should contain the elements of the well-known “accusations” of the G.P.U. We must not forget for one moment that Klement was closely familiar with the life and work of the Fourth International, that he was especially indignant at these “accusations” and that his indignation found inimitable expression in dozens of letters. Klement took an active part in the unmasking of the Moscow trials, and this work, again, is imprinted in numerous letters and documents.

Where Is Klement?

It is most probable, however, that the letter is written in the grip of the G.P.U. and that Klement, in fear for his life or for the lives of people dear to him, or finally, under the influence of some drugs, submissively wrote down what he was ordered, not bothering to correct obvious absurdities. It is even possible that Klement included these absurdities with complete readiness in order, in this fashion, to compromise the G.P.U.’s plot beforehand. In any case this letter written and transmitted to me testifies that this affair will have its aftermath. The very fact of Klement’s disappearance remains of course the chief mystery. Where is he? What has happened to him? The letter bears no indication of the place of mailing. Apparently the letter passed from city to city; the inner envelope bears only my initials. I will endeavor of course to obtain the necessary information about the postal route of this letter.

The letter ends with the words: “I have no intention to come out openly against you.” Needless to say, I wish more that anything else that the unfortunate Klement could speak and come out ‘openly’ if ... he is still alive. I am immediately sending a photostatic copy of the letter for the disposal of the French authorities and the New York Commission of Dr. John Dewey. Let us trust that the solution of this mysterious case will be found and that complete light will be shed upon it.

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Last updated on: 12 September 2015