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International Socialist Review, Summer 1966


Trotsky Papers


From International Socialist Review, Vol.27 No.3, Summer 1966, pp.126-127.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Trotsky Papers 1917-1922
edited and annotated by Jan M. Meijer
Mouton & Cie., The Hague. 858 pp. (Available in this country from The Humanities Press, $28.50)

In 1936 the International Institute of Social History at Amsterdam acquired from Leon Trotsky a collection of 800 documents covering the period 1917-1922. Trotsky called this “the Lenin-Trotsky Correspondence.”

He placed these historical records in the safekeeping of the Institute because he feared they would be stolen or destroyed by Soviet agents. GPU agents had already tried to get their hands upon the collection which refuted many of the myths propagated by Stalin’s regime about Trotsky’s role. Trotsky himself intended to use these materials in writing a history of the Civil War which he directed as creator and commander-in-chief of the Red Army.

The present volume comprises documents 1–435, roughly half of the total. (The rest will be published in a second part.) It includes a wide variety of documents: telegrams, letters, telephonic and written messages, orders of the day, minutes of the Central Committee, Politburo and Orgburo meetings, extracts from speeches, draft resolutions, including exchanges between Lenin and Trotsky on revising the program of the Communist Party, and other communications.

All were issued at the height of the Civil War when the young Soviet Republic was battling for survival. Moving from one front to another in his military train, Trotsky as commander of the armed forces was in constant communication with Lenin, head of the Council of People’s Commissars in the Kremlin.

The trust that Lenin reposed in Trotsky, contrary to later Stalinist lies, is attested to by the document on page 589. The military opposition within the party and army, egged on from behind by Stalin, had protested the stern measures taken by Trotsky at the critical battle of Svyazst in 1918. After a politburo meeting in July 3-4, 1919, Lenin handed Trotsky a signed sheet containing an advance blanket endorsement for any order he might choose to issue.

The text of this testimonial reads:

“Comrades! Knowing the strict character of the instructions issued by Comrade Trotsky, I am so convinced, supremely convinced that the instruction issued by Comrade Trotsky is correct, to the point, and essential for the good of the cause, that I wholly support this instruction.” (An extended account of this episode is given in Chapters XXXV–VII of Trotsky’s autobiography My Life.)

This whole work, painstakingly annotated by the editor, publishes for the first time indispensable sources about the difficulties facing the Bolshevik leaders in defending their revolution and for grasping the real relations among them.

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