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Albert Goldman

Where We Stand

(16 August 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 33, 16 August 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Why Stalin Murdered Trotsky

One point concerning the connection between Stalin’s murder of Trotsky and the war situation has not been sufficiently stressed. It was easy to see that Stalin hoped to minimize the publicity the murder would receive by the attention which the press was devoting to the war. It was in all probability no accident that the murder occurred in the midst of the Battle of Britain when the whole world was reading news about Hitler’s desperate attempt to achieve air superiority over England. But I think the more important factor which made Stalin determined to get rid of Trotsky was his fear that the great leader of the Red Army would be alive at the time when the Soviet Union would be involved in the war.

Everything that Stalin did indicated his anxiety to avoid involvement in the war. But he understood well enough that Hitler could not be trusted. And he understood also that a war would set into motion forces that would shake his regime and that, with Trotsky alive, the hopes of millions of Soviet workers would be concentrated on Lenin’s closest collaborator. Millions of workers are alive in the Soviet Union who remember from their own experiences the role played by Trotsky in the October Revolution and the Civil War. All the filth, all the monstrous lies that Stalin had his henchmen write about the organizer of the Red Army could not and did not deceive the countless number of workers who lived in the stirring and heroic days when Lenin and Trotsky led the Soviet Union. It is doubtful that Stalin’s propaganda machine succeeded in deceiving even the generation which was old enough to understand what was going on at the time when Trotsky was exiled.

Stalin knew that during a war the thoughts of these millions of Soviet workers and peasants would turn to their leader of old. If by chance the Red Army were defeated, Stalin feared a tremendous mass movement demanding the return of the man who did so much to assure the victory of the Revolution. And if the Red Army were victorious, Stalin feared that the workers and peasants, flushed with victory, would no longer tolerate the arbitrary and oppressive rule of the bureaucracy. In either case, the figure and the personality of Trotsky would naturally become the center of a great mass movement.

A major conflict and a living Trotsky during such a conflict were the two great fears haunting Stalin. By cunning and perseverance he could and did succeed in having one of his GPU men thrust a pick-axe into the brain of Trotsky. He got rid of Trotsky but he could not get rid of war. At this time, when the Soviet Union is at war, it can be readily seen how anxious and determined Stalin was to do away with Trotsky and thus avoid the great danger of a mass movement centering around the demand for the return of Trotsky to help defend the Soviet Union.

Trotsky’s Death a Blow to the USSR

It did not matter to Stalin that by murdering Trotsky he struck a damaging blow at the Soviet Union. The Stalinist bureaucracy is interested in saving the Soviet Union only in such a way as to preserve the bureaucracy’s own existence.

It would be idle to deny that Stalin strengthened his own position through the murder of Trotsky. The working masses of the Soviet Union have lost a great leader around whom they could rally. But it would be just as foolish to conclude that, with the murder of Trotsky, Stalin has removed the danger of being overthrown by the Soviet masses. At best he can gain time by destroying the leaders of the revolutionary opposition.

Stalin cannot destroy the program of Trotsky, because that program springs out of the conditions that prevail within the Soviet Union and throughout the whole world. How well acquainted even the politically conscious Soviet workers are with the specific aspects of the Trotsky program is difficult to say. They have not been permitted to read a word of Trotsky’s writings. But it is possible and probable that through word of mouth some ot Trotsky’s ideas have found their way into the minds and hearts of the best and most conscious of the Soviet workers.

The important fact is that the Soviet workers are even now following the program of Trotsky – at least one part of it. Their magnificent resistance to the army of German imperialism is a clear indication that they have undertaken to defend the Soviet Union to the last drop of their blood. Nothing that Stalin did in the last eighteen years, no crime that he committed, has been great enough to make the Soviet workers defeatist. Even if they did not read the works of Trotsky, the advanced Soviet workers know that he was for the unconditional defense of the Soviet Union when he was exiled, and knowing Trotsky they must have concluded that he never changed his position. They know what the basis of Trotsky’s position is – the existence of nationalized property, the foundation of Socialism erected by the October Revolution.

The Soviet Workers Understand

The Soviet workers are far more astute politically than those sophisticates who try to prove that there is no difference between fascist Germany and the Soviet Union and that the Soviet Union is waging an imperialist war. On the basis of the terrible hardships that the Soviet working masses had to endure in the last decade; the tyranny and oppression they were subjected to by the arrogant Stalinist bureaucracy, there are “Marxists” who see no difference between the Soviet Union and fascist Germany. But they can have no explanation for the fierce resistance of the Soviet masses against the Nazi invasion. That resistance can be explained only on the basic assumption that the Soviet workers, without having read our program, still follow it because it represents the living reality understood by the workers.

And just as the Russian workers are following the aspect of the Trotskyist program in standing for the unconditional defense of the Soviet Union, so will conditions impel them eventually to follow all the other major aspects of the Trotskyist program. They will rid themselves of the Stalinist bureaucracy; they will re-establish complete Soviet democracy; they will tie their fate to the world revolution.

Stalin cannot kill the Trotskyist program for it Is a product of actual conditions. Ultimately that program will destroy Stalin, Hitler and all those who stand in the way of world socialism.

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