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Tom Kerry

Exchange with Brian Pearce

(Winter 1966)

From International Socialist Review, Vol.27 No.1, Winter 1966, pp.2, 30-31.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

From Brian Pearce

To the Editor:

My friend Cliff Slaughter has shown me a copy of the Fall 1965 number of International Socialist Review, containing a translation by me, made several years ago, of a 1923 speech of Trotsky’s. It is, of course, always pleasing to see one’s work in print, and acknowledged by the publication of one’s name. How odd, though, to put it as mildly as possible, that I should first learn of the appearance in your journal of this translation of mine through the channel mentioned. If you did not have my home address, you could easily have sent me a copy of ISR care of the Oxford University Press (which I see you have managed, in a footnote, to bring into the act).

I hope no reader assumes I had any previous knowledge of the introduction you have provided, which contains the expected elements of fantasy and sensation-mongering. Your reference to alleged allusions in Trotsky’s speech to certain writings of Lenin’s which were in fact not made public in the Soviet Union until 1956 is beside the point; while, obviously in order to make it seem relevant, you have omitted to mention the writings by Lenin in January-March 1923 to which it is plain Trotsky is referring – On Cooperation, Pages from a Diary, Better Fewer But Better, and How We Should Reorganise the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate. It is in the last named of these articles that Lenin writes:

“With the exception of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, our state apparatus is very largely a survival of the old one, and has least of all undergone serious change. It has only been slightly repainted on the surface, but in all other things it is a typical relic of our old state apparatus.”

I don’t know about you, but I first read these articles in Volume Nine of Lenin’s Selected Works, as published here in 1937 by Lawrence and Wishart, the British Communist Party’s publishers. They were, I thought, so well known to Marxists of all varieties that I did not think it necessary to even hint at them in the footnotes I supplied to Trotsky’s speech.

Please publish this letter in your next issue, and, if you like, put in bold type this last paragraph:

Since I left the British Trotskyist organisation, four years ago, the Socialist Labour League has been scrupulously correct in printing the date of any translation of mine they publish, from among those I did for them (and you) in 1957-61, so that no misapprehension can arise as to continued political association with them on my part. You, however, have not followed their good example. Any reader who may by this means have been misled into supposing, from the use made of my name in International Socialist Review, that I have any sympathy with your “tendency” should rest assured that this is emphatically not so.


Yours sincerely,
Brian Pearce
October 20, 1965


It seems apparent that the fit of pique which moved Brian Pearce to dispatch his letter before even extending the courtesy of a request for an explanation is prompted by two major considerations:

  1. To make it known publicly (for the first time to our knowledge) that he had severed his organizational connection with the Socialist Labour League some four years ago, and
  2. That the appearance in the ISR of his translation of the Trotsky material might mislead our readers into concluding that he was in sympathy with our “tendency” in the international Trotskyist movement.

As for the first, we are happy to make known the fact of Pearce’s departure from the SLL which, up to now, has been a well kept secret by his “friend” Slaughter and Co. in the leadership of the SLL. We trust that this does not mean that Pearce is thinking of turning against the Trotskyist movement as have other prominent figures who could not stomach the internal regime or sectarian policies of the infantile leftists of the SLL.

As for the second, we have no hesitation in correcting any misapprehension on the part of any of our readers, that the appearance of the Pearce translation be in anyway interpreted as indicating any sympathy with our tendency in the international movement. In publishing the translation from the material made available to us we were motivated solely by our desire to provide our readers with a hitherto unpublished English translation of an important historical document.

As for our alleged lack of “scrupulosity” in neglecting to append the date of translation, the simple fact is that there was no date on the manuscript. As for the introduction to the translation we are at a loss to understand how there could be any ambiguity on that score. The introduction was preceded by an 18 point bold face subhead clearly establishing that it had been written by the editors and we take full responsibility for its content.

Pearce’s allusion to “fantasy and sensation-mongering” in the introduction, based on the tendentious contention that Trotsky had in mind only the published articles of Lenin, seems to us to be one-sided and pedantic. The material now available, as well as the relations at the time between Lenin and Trotsky, confirm that all of Lenin’s “notes” on the dangers of bureaucratism and the role of the Stalin faction were known, certainly to Trotsky as well as to other members of the Bolshevik Central Committee. The “alleged allusions” in Trotsky’s speech to which Pearce takes exception in our editorial comment appear to us to be unmistakable in the light of the now known facts.

In conclusion, it is unfortunate that superficial, technical or factional considerations should arise in connection with the publication of something by Trotsky, not hitherto available to the English-speaking public. On our part, we consider the important thing is to make such material available; and in this connection the ISR intends to continue to do what it can to provide such material no matter what the name of the translator or his political affiliations.


Tom Kerry

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