Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History



Dear Comrades,

I have seen the excellent no.2 of your journal Revolutionary History and would like to order all the issues, which have so far appeared, and to subscribe to the coming ones.

However, after a first look at this issue, I already would like to make some comments, as I have researched this topic very much for my thesis on the POUM. First, the famous quote from Pravda. Although this represents very much what the Soviets did, and in December were already planning to do, in fact it really never appeared in Pravda. This will be definitely established, I think, by the forthcoming, definitive version of Bolloten’s book on the Civil War. Although I used it myself in my thesis, I have in the meantime tried to find it in Pravda and was not able ... Besides, it is hard to imagine that the Stalinists, who were still in a formal coalition with the Anarchists, would have openly proclaimed their willingness to destroy them. In fact, history happened this way: La Batalla found it in a Mexican newspaper and published it. It seemed plausible, as it really was the Stalinist policy.

Then the Spartacist statement ... (p.7). Here are some really important errors. Firstly, it is simply not true that Trotsky broke with the Izquierda Comunista over the fusion with the Maurinists. He was, in fact, against it, but accepted it as a majority decision of the Spanish section (see for example his comments, when he got the report by IS delegate Rous on the fusion in fall 1935 or Oeuvres, Vol.15, p.128 plus the notes by Broué on this page). He broke with the former Trotskyists in the POUM over the signing of the election platform in February 1936. But nevertheless, he was willing to collaborate with them again in August, only to break with them much more ‘definitively’ after the entry of the POUM into the Catalan government at the end of September. But again, I think one should not forget that the Fourth International was willing to participate in the projected international conference of the POUM in July 1937 in Barcelona (which could not take place because of the Stalinist repression) and the Fourth International wanted to invite the POUM to the founding conference (which was not done because of security reasons).

The article by Keith Hassell is, of course, much better than the Spartacist statement, because it is detailed and documented on the POUM line. But as it does not take up the question of Trotsky and his position on the fusion in fall 1935, which is falsely understood as in the Spartacist declaration (some kind of a pseudo-orthodox myth), I think that what I wrote above is still valid. However, there is one thing in the postscript I would like to comment on. When he criticizes the Marxist League’s positive comment on the POUM, he should not forget that this was more or less the same as can be found in August/September 1936 in more or less all the Trotskyist papers around the world. It is important to see the exact date and the corresponding political facts. Between July and the end of September, that is before the entry of the POUM into the Catalan government, that was the hope of nearly all Trotskyists. I could give similar quotes from the French Lutte Ouvrière, Trotsky also was willing to cooperate with the POUM in August (cf. his famous letter to Rous of 16 August). Such a position has, of course, nothing to do with later positive positions on the POUM, by for example Vereeken, Sneevliet, or the minority in the SWP at its founding convention.

Much can now be added to the pamphlet by Katja Landau. Hubert von Ranke has left a very interesting unpublished memoir which gives some new names, information, etc. For example, he explains some traps for the POUM. He confirms that Paulina Doppler was a GPU agent. He describes a Russian named Leo as the organiser of the persecution against the POUM in Barcelona. This Leo, some kind of military attache in the Soviet consulate in Barcelona, is quite probably Leonid Eitingon. He was, as we know, in Barcelona, and it seems logical that he was involved in the repression of the POUM. (Ranke thinks that this Leo was Narvich. But he knew only much later about him. And besides, it does not make sense. We know now that he came from a White Russian background and had some contacts with Trotskyists before – something very much similar to Zborowski.) However, what is now quite well established is that Alfred Hertz was not identical with George Mink. Broué has accepted it in his new Trotsky, biography. It has been sufficiently, documentated by a German historian, Patrick von zur Mühlen, who has written a book on the Germans in the Spanish Civil War. Hertz was very probably a communist militant from Germany, but with a still unknown post. Besides which, zur Mühlen gives some more interesting additional details of the Stalinist repression in Spain against left wing socialists.

I doubt if Franz Feldman (p.55, note 27) was Erno Gerö. He was the Comintern representative to the PSUC under the name of Pedro. It is hardly imaginable that he was at the same time occupied with such ‘minor’ activities. Seppi Kapalanz is correctly spelled Seppl (a nickname) Campalans. (She was the widow of the former Catalan Socialist leader Rafael Campalans, and is still living, as far as I know.) On p.54: Georg Scheyer alias Sanja (correctly Schaja or Szaja – for Izchaak) Kinderman was a Polish Jew, living as a refugee in Barcelona, a Stalinist, who took the chance to make a career after 19 July. It seems, although I have no possibility to prove this oral information, that he played a major ro1e in the Polish state security after 1945, but was expelled in 1968. He is supposed to be living in Sweden now.

So much for now. I hope this gives you some new information. I am looking forward to getting your interesting journal!

Reiner Tosstorff

Updated by ETOL: 6.7.2003