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The Militant, 24 February 1945

Leon Trotsky

Leon Sedov: Brave Revolutionary Fighter


From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 8, 24 February 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Leon Sedov, the eldest son of Natalia Sedov Trotsky and Leon Trotsky, died in a Paris hospital seven years ago on February 16, 1938. Only thirty-two years old, Sedov had lived his entire life in the international Socialist movement, giving to it all of his talents, energies and devotion. He was a true son of the Russian revolution.

When the bitter news of Sedov’s sudden death reached Leon Trotsky, exiled in Mexico, he wrote Leon Sedov – Son, Friend, Fighter, a stirring tribute to this great young revolutionist. We reprint below sections from that pamphlet.

Sedov was one of the outstanding leaders of the young Soviet workers who fought in the Russian Left Opposition against the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet, state and the Communist International. Throughout the struggles of the Left Opposition, Sedov worked side by side with Trotsky. After Trotsky’s expulsion from the Soviet Union in 1928, Sedov voluntarily went into exile to work tirelessly as his father’s collaborator.

The GPU, Stalin’s secret police, hounded Sedov, laid trap after trap in attempts to kill him. In 1938, while Sedov, apparently recovering from an operation for appendicitis, lay helpless in a Paris hospital bed, Stalin’s agents finally succeeded.

Sedov lives in our memory as a symbol of the revolutionary youth of the world. His name is indelibly inscribed on the banner of the Fourth International which will bring the liberation of all mankind.

* * *

While but a child – he was going on twelve – he had, in his own way, made the transition from the February revolution to that of October. His boyhood passed under high pressure. He added a year to his age so that he might more quickly join the Komsomol (Communist Youth), seething at that time with all the passion of awakened youth. The young bakers, among whom he carried on propaganda, would award him a fresh loaf of white bread which he happily brought home under his arm, protruding from the torn sleeve of his jacket. Those were fiery and cold, great and hungry years.

Of his own volition Leon left the Kremlin for a proletarian student dormitory, in order not to be any different from the others. He would not ride with us in an automobile, refusing to make use of this privilege of the bureaucrats. But he did participate ardently in all Red Saturdays and other “labor mobilizations”, cleaning snow from the Moscow streets, “liquidating” illiteracy, unloading bread and firewood from freight cars, and later, as a polytechnic student, repairing locomotives.

If he did not get to the war front, it was only because even adding two or as much as three years to his age could not have helped him; for he was not yet fifteen when the civil war ended. However, he did accompany me several times to the front, absorbing its stark impressions, and firmly understanding why this bloody struggle was being waged ...

Leon’s Exposure of the Moscow Trials

Leon’s chief literary work was his book, The Red Book on the Moscow Trial, devoted to the trial of the Sixteen (Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, et al.) It was published in French, Russian and German. At that time my wife and I were captives in Norway, bound hand and foot, targets of the most monstrous slander. There are certain forms of paralysis in which people see, hear and understand everything but are unable to move a finger to ward off mortal danger. It was to such political paralysis that the Norwegian “Socialist” government subjected us. What a priceless gift to us, under these conditions, was Leon’s book, the first crushing reply to the Kremlin falsifiers.

The first few pages, I recall, seemed to me pale. That was because they only restated a political appraisal, which had already been made, of the general condition of the USSR. But from the moment the author undertook an independent analysis of the trial, I became completely engrossed, Each succeeding chapter seemed to me better than the last. “Good boy, Levusyatka!” my wife and I said. “We have a defender!”

How his eyes must have glowed with pleasure as he read our warm praise! Several newspapers, in particular the central organ of the Danish Social Democracy, said with assurance that I apparently had, despite the strict conditions of internment, found the means of participating in the work which appeared under Sedov’s name. “One feels the pen of Trotsky ...” All this is – fiction. In the book there is not a line of my own. Many comrades who were inclined to regard Sedov merely as “Trotsky’s son” – just as Karl Liebknecht was long regarded only as the son of Wilhelm Liebknecht – were able to convince themselves, if only from this little book, that he was not only an independent but an outstanding figure.

Leon wrote as he did everything else, that is, conscientiously, studying, reflecting, checking. The vanity of authorship was alien to him. At the same time every line he wrote glows with a living flame, whose source was his unfeigned revolutionary temperament.

* * *

The Making of a Young Revolutionist

This temperament was formed and hardened by events of personal and family life indissolubly linked to the great political events of our epoch. In 1905, his mother sat in a Petersburg jail expecting a child. A gust of liberalism set her free in the autumn. In February of the next year, the boy was. born. By that time I was already confined in prison. I was able to see my son for the first time only thirteen months later, when I escaped from Siberia.

His earliest impressions bore the breath of the first Russian revolution whose defeat drove us into Austria. The war, which drove us into Switzerland, hammered into the consciousness of the eight-year-old boy. The next big lesson for him was my deportation from France. On board ship he conversed, in sign language, about the revolution with a Catalan stoker. The revolution signified for him all possible boons, above all a return to Russia.

En route from America, near Halifax, the eleven-year-old Levik struck a British officer with his fist. He knew whom to hit; not the sailors who carried me off the ship, but the officer who issued the orders. In Canada, during my incarceration in the concentration camp, Leon learned how to conceal letters not read by the police and how to place them unobserved in the mailbox. In Petrograd he found himself immediately plunged into the atmosphere of Bolshevik-baiting. In the bourgeois school where he happened to be enrolled at the beginning, sons of liberals and Social Revolutionaries beat him up because he was Trotsky’s son. Once he came to the Wood-Workers’ Trade Union, where his mother worked, with his hands all bloody. He had had a political discussion in school with Kerensky’s son.

Thus a future fighter took shape. For him, the revolution was not an abstraction. Oh no! It seeped into his very pores. Hence derived his serious attitude toward revolutionary duty beginning with the Red Saturdays, and tutoring of the backward ones. That is why he later joined so ardently in the struggle against the bureaucracy ...

Stalin Is Responsible for His Death

Material difficulties and privations Leon bore lightly, jokingly, like a true proletarian: but of course they too left their mark. Infinitely more harrowing were the effects of subsequent moral tortures. The Moscow Trial of the Sixteen, the monstrous nature of the accusations, the nightmarish testimony of the defendants, among them Smirnov and Mrachkovsky, whom Leon so intimately knew and loved; the unexpected internment of his father and mother in Norway, the period of four months without any news; the theft of the archives, the mysterious removal of my wife and myself to Mexico; the second Moscow Trial with its even more delirious accusations and confessions, the disappearance of his brother Sergei, accused of “poisoning workers”; the shooting of countless people who had either been close friends or remained friends to the end; the persecutions and the attempts of the GPU in France, the murder of Reiss in Switzerland, the lies, the baseness, the perfidy, the frame-ups – no, “Stalinism” was for Leon not an abstract political concept but an endless series of moral blows and spiritual wounds.

Whether the Moscow masters resorted to chemistry, or whether everything they had previously done proved sufficient, the conclusion remains one and the same: It was they who killed him. The day of his death they marked on the Thermidorian calendar as a major celebration ...

Good-bye, Leon, good-bye, dear and incomparable friend. Your mother and I never thought, never expected, that destiny would impose on us this terrible task of writing your obituary. We lived in the firm conviction that long after we were gone you would be the continuer of our common cause. But we were not able to protect you. Good-bye, Leon! We bequeath your irreproachable memory to the younger generation of the workers of the world. You will rightly live in the hearts of all those who work, suffer and struggle for a better world. Revolutionary youth of all countries! Accept from us the memory of our Leon, adopt him as your son – he is worthy of it – and let him henceforth participate invisibly in your battles, since destiny has denied him the happiness of participating in your final victory.

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