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Ernest Lund

In Memory of Leon Trotsky

Assassinated by an Agent of Stalin’s GPU inAugust 1940

(20 August 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 34, 20 August 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In the past several years an increasing number of trade union activists have become accustomed to hearing the word “Trotskyist” used in the labor movement. Many of the best of them have themselves been called “Trotskyists” because of the ideas they stood for. According to the reactionary union officials and Stalin’sstooges in the labor movement, “Trotskyism” has come to mean any bold policy of action on behalf of the working class.

“Trotskyist” has come to mean anyone who is against the no-strike pledge and in favor of restoring genuine collective bargaining.

“Trotskyist” has come to mean anyone against a policy of appeasement to corporations and in favor of a militant defense of labor’s rights.

“Trotskyist’ has come to mean anyone against a policy of kowtowing to government agencies and for the withdrawal of labor’s members from the War Labor Board.

“Trotskyist” has come to mean anyone against making the trade union movement a tail to the Democratic Party kite and in favor of organizing an independent Labor Party.

“Trotskyist” has come to mean anyone against post-war unemployment and hunger under capitalism and in favor of jobs and plenty for all through a socialist system of planned production foruse.

Who Was Trotsky?

Leon Trotsky would have been proud to have had his name associated with these ideas.

And those thousands of trade unionists who have been fighting for these ideas would do well on this, the fifth commemoration of his tragic death, to resolve to acquaint themselves with the whole of Trotsky’s ideas – his real ideas and not lies and distortions which his enemies have peddled about.

Trotsky was one of the great intellectual giants of the working-class movement. Beginning as a youth, he devoted himself unsparingly and unflinchingly to the cause of socialism. His part in leading the Russian working class in the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 has become an imperishable page in history. But that which will live longest as a contribution to the liberation of humanity is Trotsky’s monumental labor to preserve, extend and apply the scientific theory of Marxism, without which the struggle for a socialist world would flounder like a mariner without charts and compass.

Trotsky carried on where Marx, Engels and Lenin left off. He took their theories and, together with the experience of the working class, developed the strategy and tactics that could lead to victory. The strategy of the working class in the struggle for power became his special sphere. He devoted himself to this question because he saw in it the bottleneck which would prove the undoing of all previous triumphs. History has proved him right in this estimate.

Trotsky viewed the Russian Revolution as the beginning of a world-wide struggle which would determine whether socialism or capitalist barbarism would prevail. He kept repeating that socialism was on the order of the day ever since the First World War and that mankind would suffer cruelly for postponing its achievement. The price it would pay, Trotsky foretold, would be new and more devastating wars; worldwide economic crisis and the bloody tyranny of fascism.

Trotsky held that the working class, particularly in Europe, was ready and able to fight successfully for power and socialism. The paralysis that gripped the working class in the post-war years was not a paralysis of the ranks. Trotsky kept repeating: “The crisis of the working class is a crisis of leadership.”

Trotsky’s Great Struggle

The leadership of the old pre-war socialist movement (Second International) had led the workers into the morass of the war and the blind alley of capitalist democracy at the end of the war. It had revealed itself incapable and unwilling in the fight for socialism.

With the Russian Revolution rose the new revolutionary Marxist leadership of the Communist International. Trotsky stood in its leadership alongside of Lenin during its first five years.

With the triumph of the Stalinist counter-revolution in Russia, the Communist Parties of the world ceased being Marxist organizations and became fifth columns for the new Russian rulers.

Trotsky was exiled from Russia. His books were burned, his followers imprisoned or shot, his name blackened. But Trotsky determined to start all over again. He gathered the few revolutionary Marxists in various corners of the world who had survived the corruption and confusion of Stalinism and again organized a world organization committed to carrying on in the theories and traditions of Marx and Lenin.

Trotsky devoted the declining years of his life to this great labor. It bore fruit. His work exists today in the parties that are popularly associated with his name and in their Marxist programs. But for the brilliant light of his intellect which illuminated world politics during the eleven years of his last exile the flame of Marxism would have survived as a feeble flicker indeed.

The Workers Party was formed in 1940 as a result of a sharp political struggle against the position held by Trotsky on Russia’s rule in the war. It was our position that Marxists could no longer pledge unconditional defense to the Soviet Union.

Trotsky continued to adhere to this view. Though we separated ourselves organizationally from Trotsky, the Workers Party has carried on in his tradition and has made the essence of his ideas the foundation of its program. Those who boast that they are the “orthodox Trotskyists” with the “unsullied banner” have continued to cling desperately to the great teacher’s last words but have forgotten the scientific spirit of his method of political analysis.

The Workers Party is determined to teach and train a new generation of young Marxists in the theories of Trotsky. And through our party and its adherents we will continue to carry the fighting spirit which characterized Trotsky as a man and a thinker, into the great struggles that loom before the American working class. In the course of these struggles, increasing thousands of American workers will come to know of Trotsky, not as a foreigner with a little beard and violent notions, but as the great teacher of the international working class movement for socialism.

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