MIA: History: ETOL: Newspapers/Journals: Leon Trotsky Notebooks: January, 1979


With this first issue of Cahiers Leon Trotsky, the Leon Trotsky Institute is close to completing its first year of existence. It’s time for an initial assessment, which seems to us to confirm both the correctness of and need for this undertaking. Three volumes of works, most of whose texts were previously unpublished, appeared in E.D.I., the first in June, covering the period March to July 1933; the second in September (July-October 1933); and the third in November (Nov. 1933-April 1934). We know that despite the care taken in their production these volumes are not free of defects due to the limited resources at our disposal. However, the welcome they received shows that this, together with the accompanying scholarly material – historical introduction, notes on persons and events, indexes, satisfies what we wanted these publications to be: an essential tool for improving the knowledge of a crucial period in the history of the labour movement and for providing material for a thorough reflection on this history. Indeed, to judge the work of Trotsky and his role, one must first be able to take stock of it correctly. To provide all of the documents, all the historical clarifications needed for a rigorous and comprehensive assessment: that is the task that the Institute takes upon itself, which, like Trotsky himself, does not call for any form of blind faith.

The role of the leader of October, of the creator of the Red Army could not be completely obscured by the enormous mass of lies and falsifications that before Ramon Mercader's ice-axe struck, had been heapedupon him, especially since the appearance in the mid-sixties of Isaac Deutscher's monumental biography, revealing the true stature, not only the man of action, but also the theoretician of permanent revolution. But the forms and extent of his struggle in the period of exile are far from clearly visible, even to the informed public. That is why the Institute began its publications with the work of these years: work that in March 1935 Trotsky considered “the most important of [his] life, more important than the period of the Civil War” and “in the full sense of the word irreplaceable.” The great works of that time – History of theRussian Revolution, My Life, The Permanent Revolution, The Revolution Betrayed– having been reissued, we had to focus our efforts on documents that are difficult to access and often unknown to the French public: articles, pamphlets , discussions, resolutions, letters – which were after all one of Trotsky's means of intervening in struggles.

Our first series is from the beginning of 1933 when the story of Europe and the world experienced a decisive break the consequences of which are still felt today. The topicality of the problems that Trotsky, under the worst conditions had to face, multiplying warnings, indicating ways in which to search for solutions, anticipating catastrophe, this truly extraordinary topicality of the material justifies the interest of a wider audience and of new generations.

But the 1933-1940 series does not represent all of the projects of the Institute, which aims to publish the work of Trotsky in the broadest possible way. A vast scholarly enterprise– which is run entirely independently of the organisational framework of Trotskyism, while including activists of various currents as well as researchers – cannot be seen as work done in isolation. From the outset the Institute has developed its activities as a team effort extending beyond the borders of France (only administrative reasons has reduced the executive committee members to a solely French perspective. How could we not mention here the decisive support given to us by Esteban Volkov, grand-son of Leon Trotsky, and all we owe to Pathfinder Press which, under the direction of George Breitman, just completed the publication of the twelfth volume of Writings for the period 1929-1940? The help of Louis Sinclair, the author of a gigantic bibliography of Trotsky, also cannot be passed over in silence. In turn we count on ourselves to be useful to them by enriching the continuation of their research. With the teams have been engaged in similar activities to ours in other countries, a very fruitful collaboration has already been established. It up to all of us to pursue this further.

With the expansion of knowledge of Trotsky by providing documents and studies, one of the functions of the Cahiers, which will be published four times a year, is to make this international collaboration a reality by circulating information, by ensuring the bibliographic listing of all work relating to Trotsky in various languages, and by encouraging a variety of contributions: memoirs, activists' testimonies, unknown documents, articles, etc. It is through the transformation of our readers into writers that we will see that our enterprise has succeeded. We call on them to join us in bringing it to life.