Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History


Trotsky’s Writings

Dear Comrades,

The following information might be of interest to the readers of Revolutionary History. Even though Trotsky’s texts have been extensively published in the Writings, the fact that 10,000 pages will be published over the next 10 years is worth mentioning and proves that interest in Trotsky is reviving in Germany.

After 17 (!) years Helmut Dahmer surfaces again in 1988 with the publication of an extensive collection of Leon Trotsky’s writings. Volume 1 is in two parts. On 1416 pages his most important contributions to the subject of Soviet society and Stalinist dictatorship (1929-1940) are presented. The 67 texts are introduced by an article by Pierre Frank, Trotsky's Analysis of Stalinism. It was written for this publication in 1980. In an addendum Frank covers the developments of the August of that year in Poland. He stresses that – as Trotsky predicted – none of the demands of the workers questioned the social base of the country, and that the expected gains could hardly be reduced by bureaucratic means. Frank expresses his hope that many Lech Walesas will transmit to neighbouring countries the idea of depriving the bureaucracy of its powers, and subduing it to the control of the workers.

Where possible, all texts have been newly translated from the originals. The first volume’s two parts contain an extensive amount of comment, which will be reduced from 40 to 20 per cent in future publications. With the help of an index, information about political terms, persons and historical facts is easily accessible. As an appendix Christian Rakovsky’s 1928 letter, The Professional Dangers of Power is offered for the first time in German since its first publication in Permanente Revolution in 1932.

Volume 2, Writings about China (1924-1940), covers all the statements of Trotsky with regard to the Chinese revolution in the ’twenties, as well as the peasant war and the Japanese invasion in the ’thirties. It will be introduced by Wang Fanxi and in addition provide letters by Eugene Preobrazhensky and Chen Duxiu.

Volume 3, The Left Opposition and the Fourth International (1923-1940), covers the most important writings of Trotsky as a leader of the Soviet and International Left Opposition and as an inspirer of the Fourth International.

Volume 4, Permanent Revolution, combines in chronological order all the writings in which Trotsky developed his theory of permanent revolution. The introduction will be by Michael Loewy with an appendix of texts by A. Parvus-Helphand and Rosa Luxemburg.

Volume 5, Literature and Revolution, has an introduction by Alan Wald and covers Trotsky’s sociological studies of literature.

Volume 6, Writings about Germany (1929-1940), will be the extended republication of the 1971 parts of the Schriften-project. Ernest Mandel’s introduction explains Trotsky’s analysis of fascism.

Volume 7 will be republication of My Life.

Volume 8, Lenin, brings together Trotsky's biography The Young Lenin with other materials that are concerned with Lenin.

Volume 9, Stalin, will present the unfinished biography of Trotsky and other material, with an introduction by Mandel.

Volume 10 is Trotsky's Russian Revolution in a new translation.

Dahmer ends his postscript by answering a question which has obviously been put to him often, namely “What is the value of publishing such an extended edition of Trotsky’s writings?”. Of the many possible answers he personally favours the following one, which connects the intention of the project with that of Revolutionary History, namely that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Dahmer notes that each generation, like Oedipus, has the task of solving the dual riddle of its history and its present. If it fails, it will be swallowed up, because there is no room for a stand-in He continues: “And the greater the number of unsolved riddles which are passed on from one generation to another – in our century they are ‘Auschwitz’, ‘Hiroshima’, ‘Gulag Archipelago’ ... – the more inexplicable their present becomes to those who follow. Those who don’t find a way out of the cul-de-sac of society’s development have to look to history for help. And those who are immobilised by the horrors of the present will try to learn the art from the great riddle-solvers of the 19th and the early 20th century, the Marxes, the Freuds and the Trotskys.”

Jens-Peter Steffen

Updated by ETOL: 6.7.2003