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Socialist Appeal, January 1937, Volume 3 No. 1, Page 1-2
Transcribed and Marked Up by Damon Maxwell in 2008 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.

Communist Party And Political Asylum

THE STALINIST campaign against the right of asylum for Trotsky is meeting with serious reverses.

The Stalinists had banked heavily on the ability of Lombardo Toledano, unofficial Soviet representative in Mexico and secretary of the CTM (Federation of Mexican Workers), to supply them with a “working class” protest against Trotsky’s asylum in Mexico. But Toledano has been unable to deliver the goods. At this writing, he has had several meetings of his Executive Committee without securing from it an endorsement of his anti-Trotsky line. In addition, some of the most powerful unions of the CTM have declared for Trotsky’s asylum, among them the Oil Workers, the Graphic Arts Unions, the Federation of Construction Workers. The December issue of the official organ of the Construction Federation has just arrived; much of it is devoted to telegrams sent by unions to President Cardenas supporting his granting of refuge to Trotsky.

In America, the Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky has secured the adherence of perhaps the largest and most distinguished group of intellectuals and publicists ever joined together for a defense issue. Its first public meeting, December 18th in New; York City, filled the Hotel Center with 2500 people packed to the doors, over a thousand more turned away, and with nearly a thousand dollars in the collection. It is bringing out for mass distribution a book, “World Voices on the Moscow Trial,” compiled by Sidney Hook and Max Nomad, of representative labor and liberal opinion in the leading countries. Local subcommittees of the American Committee are beginning to function in San Francisco, Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago, and other cities.

New York Meeting

The American Stalinist lynch campaign against Trotsky came to a sudden hiatus after the enormously successful New York meeting. The only DAILY WORKER comment on the meeting came several days later, in a whining article addressed to Norman Thomas. The article made no mention of the speeches of Suzanne La Follette, James T. Fanell, and Max Shachtman; was equally silent about the extraordinary impression created when Herbert Solow, as his American editor, read excerpts from Carl Von Ossietsky’s writings excoriating earlier frame-ups engineered by Stalin. The article mentioned Norman Thomas’ speech only to pervert it. And it concentrated on a few remarks by Max Eastman in which he stated a position of his own in the Soviet Union which, as he said, is not “shared by the orthodox Trotskyists.” Thomas, who followed Eastman, while pointing out that he and Eastman differed, vigorously emphasized that the issues involved in Trotsky’s case were clear and unambiguous. The considerable space devoted to an accurate picture of the meeting in the Socialist and the Jewish press, effectively spiked the Stalinist distortions.

The SOCIALIST CALL and LABOR ACTION have commented adequately on the issues dealt with at the New York mass meeting. A few words need to be said, however, on the “closing remarks at the Plenary Session of the Central Committee, C.P.U.S.A. December 6,” of Earl Browder, which were printed together with much other display stuff in the December 17th “DAILY WORKER.”

Browder justifies hostility to Trotsky’s right of asylum anywhere, on the ground that Trotsky has been proved an assassin. And in the course of justifying this position, Browder revises, in all fundamentals, the attitude of Bolshevism toward asylum in capitalist countries. We can touch on only a few points:

1. Marxists have never fought to limit asylum in capitalist countries to revolutionists only. On the contrary, one could cite numerous instances when Marxists defended the right to asylum of capitalist, reactionary refugees. And in no case have Marxists campaigned against asylum for any capitalist refugee seeking to enter a capitalist country. Why? Because Marxists know that any limitation on the right of asylum, like any limitation on any democratic right, will inevitably be utilized against workers’ use of the given democratic right. For example, no revolutionary Marxist has ever supported a bill depriving political groups of the right to meet, publish a paper, etc., because no matter how explicitly framed to refer to reactionaries, such a bill would inevitably be used against the labor movement. The blind hatred of Stalinism against Trotsky has thus reached the point of wiping out the fundamental foundations of the Marxist position on democratic rights.

Police Psychology of Stalinists

2. “We are against asylum anywhere in the world for those who make assassination their weapon of political struggle, no matter who they may be,” declares Browder. And as examples, he mentions the assassinations of King Alexander and French Minister Barthou!

What is the traditional Bolshevik position on this question? We need only refer to the celebrated case of the assassination of the Russian reactionary, Colonel Trepov, by Very Zasulich. Though Marxists fought against assassination as a political weapon, nevertheless the Bolsheviks did not condemn her. Thanks to the European labor movement, she secured asylum in Switzerland. And there none other than Lenin sat with Vera Zasulich on the board of “Iskra,” the first Bolshevik paper! Yet these. Stalinists have grown so utterly corrupt that they dare to ascribe to Leninism the police-psychology of refusing asylum to those representatives of the national minorities who, if mistaken in their weapons of political struggle, nevertheless fought against King Alexander and Barthou from progressive considerations!

3. “We will” declares Browder “support every sincere effort to outlaw assassination by international agreements.” This is even more serious a revision of Marxism than the previous points. All any capitalist nation need do, after making such an international agreement – the Soviet government has already proposed such agreements – is to accuse a political exile of murder, try him in his absence and secure a verdict of guilty, and then demand he be turned over to the hangman by the authorities of the country where he has taken refuge. Is this not exactly what Hitler has just attempted to secure from Switzerland in the case of the Communist Heinz Neumann? In 1916 Russian soldiers in Marseilles mutinied and killed their colonel; Trotsky, as editor of Nashe Slovo, was accused of inciting them to assassination, and was expelled from France. According to the Stalinist proposal to “outlaw assassination by international agreements,” Trotsky would then have received asylum nowhere else. One could list a dozen other examples of what this reactionary Stalinist doctrine implies. But enough. Stalinism is attempting to wipe out the classical Bolshevik position on the right of asylum!

As to the alleged motivation for Stalinist revisionism, namely that Trotsky plotted to assassinate Soviet leaders, the American Socialist party has declared itself ready to give the Stalin government an opportunity to meet Trotsky face to face before an international working class commission. Trotsky himself has repeatedly declared his desire to be heard before such a commission. But Stalinism dare not face such a commission, it has no case which win stand up outside of a Stalin-controlled court. Every Socialist should patiently explain to Communist party members what a revelation of bankruptcy is stored in these facts.

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Last updated on 09 November 2008