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“In the Spirit of Stalin’s Letter”

(February 1933)

From the Militants, The Militant, Vol. VI No. 7, 13 February 1933, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Cleveland – Last Saturday night a liberal sympathizer of the USSR, Ella Winters (Mrs. Lincoln Steffens), spoke in the auditorium of the Women’s City Club under the auspices of the “Friends of the Soviet Union”. After the lecture there were many questions from ihe floor, a good number of them relating to Trotsky and to his status in the Soviet Union.

In reply to a question as to what the children are taught in the Soviet schools about the exiled Bolshevik leader, Mrs. Steffens replied that Soviet textbooks do not even mention his role in the October insurrection or in the civil war. She had asked a Soviet professor if this were not ... falsifying history (these are her own words). The gentleman in question replied:

“True, it is falsifying history, but it is a means to an end. To teach the truth about Trotsky would revive dangerous sentiments for the leader of the Left Opposition and disturb the great work of socialist construction that is going on. In order not to obstruct this great end falsification is justified.”

And he assured Mrs. Steffens that in a few years, after socialism is secured, this will ail be rectified and Trotsky will again be given his due place in Soviet history. The true facts, objectivity in the science of history has – so to speak – only been temporarily suspended, not eliminated. Of course, all for the good of the cause ...

“And this, my friends”, the worthy lady concluded with approval, “is the realistic way in which the Soviets approach the problem.”

A comrade asked the speaker how such an explanation can be reconciled with the scientific, Marxian foundation of Soviet society – which requires at all times, objectivity and the truth – recalling that the central organ of the Bolshevik party itself bears the name Pravda, that is, “Truth”. The speaker replied that she could not answer that question. Besides, she did not wish to go into “inner-party, politics”!

This blunt explanation of Mrs. Steffens’ deserves an evaluation. Unless she lied, it is also the explanation of Soviet pedagogues. Of course the explanation is quite in line with the Stalin regime and is no doubt in the “spirit of comrade Stalin’s letter”, which, the Daily Worker cynically tells us, represents Marxism or Leninism of the present period, the one of completing the “first phase of Communism (socialism)”. But why is falsification so readily endorsed by people who are associated here in America with muckraking liberalism and what does this endorsement mean?

That the American muckrakers were not to be taken very seriously became obvious during the last war, when the whole pack of them jumped on the Wilson bandwagon. Can these same people be trusted as “Friends of the Soviet Union”? These people always, or nearly always have good intentions. We will not dispute that. But will not these “good intentions” which paved their way to Wilsonistic jingoism betray them also when the Soviet Union is really in danger, when more is required of them than uncritical and meaningless praise for the actual successes of socialist construction in the USSSB.? The light-minded endorsement of Mrs. Steffens of what she bluntly calls “falsification of history” cannot but make us sceptical with regard to the actual value of her role as a “Friend of the Soviet Union”. What the Soviet Union, what the working class at the head of it, needs most and at all times, Lenin – following the scientific approach, of Marxism – always stressed: is the truth, the objective facts. Support for the working class which is not based upon a sympathy with the actual facts, with a thorough examination of them, is extremely questionable, is superficial and because of this superficiality, unreliable when a real test of conviction has to be withstood, in times of crisis. And that is when real friends of the Soviet Union are actually needed.

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