Leon Trotsky

In Defense of Marxism

Two Letters
to Albert Goldman [1]

First Published: Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism, New York 1942.
Checked against: Leon Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism, London 1966, pp.190-191.
All footnotes stem from the latter edition.

February 10, 1940

Dear Comrade Goldman,

I agree completely with your letter of February 5th. If I published Abern’s remark about the split, it was with the purpose of provoking a clear and unambiguous statement from Comrade Abern and other leaders of the opposition – not about the alleged hidden intentions of the majority leaders in this respect but about their own.

I have already heard the aphorism about the “second-class citizens.” I would ask the leaders of the opposition: when they call the opposing group, “Cannon’s clique” or “conservative bureaucrats” and so you, do they wish to make second class citizens of them? I can only add that extreme sensitiveness is one of the most salient features of every petty bourgeois faction. I don’t know if Shachtman, for example, wishes by his Open Letter to make me a second-class citizen. I am interested only in his ideas, not in his psychoanalytical guessing.

I am a bit under the impression that, unnerved by a series of mistakes, the leaders of the opposition push each other into a hysterical mood and then in order to justify their factional hysteria in their own eyes, they attribute to their adversaries the darkest and most incredible designs. When they say my exchange of letters with Cannon was a camouflage, I can only shrug my shoulders.

The best treatment for petty bourgeois hysteria is Marxist objectivism. We will continue to discuss dialectics, Marxian sociology, the class nature of the Soviet State, the character of the war, not with the absurd and criminal purpose of provoking a split, but with the more reasonable purpose of convincing an important part of the party and of helping it pass over from a petty bourgeois position to a proletarian one.

With warmest comradely greetings,

February 19, 1940

Dear Comrade Goldman,

A convention of the minority is only a caucus on a national scale. [2] This is why it does not signify, in itself, a principled change of the situation. It is only a new step on the same road, a bad step on the road of split, but not necessarily the split itself. Possibly, even surely, there are two or three tendencies inside the opposition in respect to the split question and the aim of the convention is to unify them. On what basis? Probably some leaders don’t see in their desperation any other way than a split.

Under these conditions a vigorous intervention in favor of unity by the majority could possibly make more difficult the task of the conscious splitters. Could not your caucus or possibly even better, the official majority of the NC or the PC address the Cleveland convention with a message concerning one question only, namely the unity of the party. In such a letter I wouldn’t introduce the question of the character of the Soviet Union or of the mixed war, otherwise it could be understood that their position on these questions must be abandoned as a precondition for remaining in the party. Not at all. You accept them as they are, if they have a real devotion to the party and the 4th International and are ready to accept discipline in action.

With best greetings,


1. These letters were written by Trotsky in English.

2. The minority convoked a conference of their group in cleveland on February 24-25, 1940. This conference resolved that there existed two politically irreconcilable tendencies in the party and that “the party must extend to whichever group is the minority at the convention the right to publish a public political journal of its own defending the general programme of the Fourth International [and which] would at the same time present in an objective manner the special position of its tendency on the disputed Russian question.” The majority rejected the demands of the minority. – Ed.

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Last updated on: 12.4.2007