A Concert for Herriot

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Author(s) Leon Trotsky
Written 1 March 1934

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 14, New York 1979, p. 464]

Herriot, mayor of Lyons and ex-minister, was the first bourgeois statesman to request a visit to the Soviet government. On the Council of People’s Commissars we were quite concerned about it and thought it would be a mistake to turn him down. Lenin was mischievous enough to put me forward for the job. I had to accept, so I tried to find ways of making the hour put aside for the visit pass as quickly as possible. Knowing that he was a music fanatic, I prepared a “surprise” concert for him. After the mutual congratulations customary at such a first meeting (and what a meeting!), Herriot peered and strained his hearing towards one of the windows looking out over Red Square. There were singers approaching. The conversation was broken off and when the soldiers’ choir came out onto the Square, he went to the window and he didn’t miss a minute of the show, noting the quality of the virile singing voices. Exclaiming his enthusiasm all the while, he followed the movements of the choir until it was out of hearing range. The conversation resumed but for quite a while it turned on the subject of this “unexpected” concert. And when the discussion was getting difficult, in view of our diametrically opposed views, the same scene was repeated back to front. Fascinated, he went back to the window until the voices had faded away into the distance once more. We began talking again but I must confess that all I can remember is what I’ve just told you.