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The Militant, 24 February 1945

Leon Trotsky

In Memory of Leon Sedov –
Heroic Revolutionary Fighter

(February 1938)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 7, 16 February 1946, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Today the thinking youth of the United States, turning from the ugly morass of capitalist crisis and wars, seek a new road to a better world. They can have no better guide than the martyred Leon Sedov whose name is inscribed on the banner of the Fourth International as a symbol of the revolutionary youth of the world.

Leon Sedov was the eldest son of Natalia Sedov Trotsky and Leon Trotsky. Only thirty-two years old at the time of his death, he had lived his entire life in the international socialist movement, giving it all of his energies, talents and devotion.

The GPU, Stalin’s secret police, hounded Sedov, laid trap after trap in attempts to kill him. On February 16, 1938, while Sedov, apparently recovering from an operation for appendicitis, lay helpless in a Paris hospital, they finally succeeded. When the bitter news of Sedov’s sudden death reached Leon Trotsky, exiled in Mexico, he wrote the stirring tribute Leon Sedov – Son, Friend, Fighter, from which we reprint the following excerpts:

* * *

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 his 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.

Scorned Privileges

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.

* * *

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 ...

Independent Figure

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 as merely “Trotsky’s son” – just as Karl Liebknecht was long regarded as only 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.

* * *

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 Mrachovsky, 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 ...


Goodbye, 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-by, 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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