Leon Trotsky Hits Back at NY Daily News Slanders

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Author(s) Leon Trotsky
Written 28 December 1938


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Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 2, 14 January 1939, pp. 1 & 3.
Collection(s): Socialist Appeal

The New York Daily News has opened up a campaign of vicious attack upon the Mexican workers and upon the expropriation policy pursued by the Mexican Government. A series of articles by one Fred Pasley is presenting Mexico as being under the rule of “anarchy and the Reds.” Editorially the News has on recent occasions charged that Leon Trotsky was the real power in Mexico behind President Cardenas. Pasley sent a list of questions to Trotsky which the latter agreed to answer if the News in turn agreed to publish the answer in full. The interview appeared in the News last week. Trotsky’s replies to Pasley follow:

1. The News in an editorial published October 29, 1938, said in part that “Trotsky is a friend and adviser of Cardenas,” and that therefore you were behind the expropriation of petroleum properties in Mexico. Your counsel, Mr. Albert Goldman, has demanded that the News retract the editorial by the News. Will you please slate your personal views as to the truth or falsity of the News’ allegations.

2. It has been frequently implied in the daily press of the United States, probably because the Cardenas government gave you asylum, that you were the inspiration of many of President Cardenas’ policies; also that he has frequently consulted you, especially as regards his agrarian policy and the taking over of industry by the government for the benefit of the workers. Is that true?

A – Since your editorial office has engaged itself by telegraph to reproduce my answers integrally, I willingly answer your questions. The editors of the Daily News have expressed themselves in their articles on Mexico, its government, and my alleged participation in Mexican politics with a laudable frankness that would appear as brutality. I shall strive to avoid brutality, however, without damaging frankness.

Never Met Cardenas[edit source]

The affirmation of the Daily News (October 29, 1938) that Trotsky is “a friend and counselor of Cardenas” is absolutely false. I have never had the honor of meeting General Cardenas or speaking with him. I have had no relations through writing with him, except the ones concerning the right of asylum. I have not been and I am not now in any relationship, direct or indirect, with any other members of the government. I have not engaged, and I do not now engage in any political activity connected with the internal life of the country, if we do not consider my unmasking the calumnies spread against me here by Stalin’s agents. Finally, the program of the Fourth International, which I support, is very far from the program of the Mexican government.

It is not difficult, on the other hand, to understand that the Mexican Government, preoccupied with the national prestige of its country, would never seek counsel from a foreign immigrant. I learned of the agrarian and other measures of the Mexican government through the newspapers, exactly like the majority of other citizens.

On the basis of what data did your paper arrive at its conclusion? Evidently on the basis of the simple fact that the government of Genera! Cardenas accorded me the right of asylum. Is it not monstrous? In 1916, I was expelled from Europe as a result of my struggle against the imperialist war, and I found asylum in the United States. Without any passport, without any visa, without any absurd and humiliating formalities! Your immigration authorities were interested that I did not have trachoma but were absolutely unconcerned about my ideas. Yet twenty-two years ago, my ideas, I venture to assure you, were as bad as now. At that time, it did not occur to anyone to draw the conclusion that President Wilson had given me the right of asylum in order to utilize my “counsels.”

The Right of Asylum[edit source]

You will object, perhaps, that this was in the remote past, when the United States had not yet been emancipated from the vestiges of barbarism; and that the present flowering of civilization began only after the great emancipatory “war for democracy.” I will not discuss that. Democratic civilization has now reached, it seems, such a flowering that the mere fact of the Mexican government’s granting me the right of asylum immediately provokes the hypothesis: this government evidently sympathizes with Trotsky’s conceptions. Permit me, nevertheless, that granting the right of asylum to one’s followers is still not democracy; this is done by Hitler, by Mussolini, by Stalin. This was done in the past by the Russian Czar and the Turkish Sultan. The principle of the right of asylum, if we consider it seriously, supposes hospitality also towards political adversaries. I permit myself to think that the government of General Cardenas accorded me hospitality not through sympathy for my political conceptions, but through respect for its own.

3. Mr. Henry J. Allen, former Governor of Kansas, visited Mexico in the Fall of 1938. He attended a seminar of American tourists at your Mexico City residence. He later wrote in part, “All through Latin America in the last few weeks Cardenas has sent emissaries preaching the rewards of confiscation ... It is easy to guess who taught him this – Trotsky ... Lombardo Toledano, who went to Russia to study the Soviet system and who is a follower of Trotsky, etc. ...” Mr. Allen repeated the gist of these charges recently in New York City. Please state the truth or falsity of these charges.

A – I have answered Mr. Allen’s insinuations in the Mexican weekly Hoy and you have the possibility of utilizing my answer completely. In Mr. Allen’s articles and speeches, so far as they concern my life and activity in Mexico, there is not a word of truth. You yourselves quote in your question Mr. Allen’s assertion that Lombardo Toledano, Secretary of the union organizations, is my “follower.” In Mexico this sentence is capable only of provoking a Homeric laugh, perhaps not very flattering to the reputation of the ex-Governor of Kansas. It is enough to say that my curious “follower” systematically repeats in his speeches and articles that I am preparing ... the overthrow of the government of General Cardenas. What basis does he have for such affirmations? The same as your paper. What is his aim? To secure my deliverance into the hands of the G.P.U. I proposed to Mr. Toledano that an impartial commission be created for public verification of his declarations. Toledano, of course, evaded reply. I am ready to send the same proposition to the address of ex-Governor Allen. He, too, of course, will evade reply. Toledano and Allen are not identical, but symmetrical, at least, in the sense that they find themselves at the same distance from the meridian of exactitude.

4. Your counsel, Mr. Albert Goldman, according to a story in the Mexico City newspaper, Excelsior, is quoted as saying that the instigator of “these editorials published in the Daily News (my paper) is a foreign correspondent living here, who has connections with the Communists in the United States and of Mexico.” Inasmuch as Mr. Goldman has publicly made that charge against the News, may I have the name the foreign correspondent?

A – Yes, I have information that the person who informed the Daily News about my alleged “participation” in the government policy of Mexico is a member of the Communist Party of the United States. You know how difficult it is in such cases to present juridical evidence even if the facts are indisputable. For your editorial office, it will not be difficult, however, to verify the exactness of this information. Two groups exist, both interested in making the insinuations which have been repeated in your newspaper in a series of articles: on the one hand are the capitalists, discontented with the Mexican government and desirous of presenting its measures as alien “communism”; on the other hand is the G.P.U. which would compromise my right of asylum in Mexico. The combining of efforts by these two groups is absolutely possible: they are also not identical but symmetrical.

5. It has been publicly stated in New York City that your stay in Mexico City is being financed by a group of anti-Stalinists in New York City. Please state the truth or falsity of that assertion.

A – The source of my income is my literary work. And only that! But it is absolutely true that my friends in the United States as well as in other countries come with devotion to Mexico in order to help me in my work and to protect me against possible attempts at assassination. They do that on their own initiative, voluntarily sacrificing their time and their means or the means of their friends. They did so when I was in Turkey, in France, and in Norway. They did it then and they do it now not for me personally, but for the ideas which I represent. It is evident that these ideas have an attractive force.

6. Is the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo “axis” a threat to world peace?

A – Of course, the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo “axis” is a menace to peace. But it is only one side of the war danger. To make war, at least two sides are necessary. Contemporary wars arise from the irreconcilability of imperialist interests. On the same rails of our planet, several trains are headed toward each other loaded with greed and hate. Of course, they must collide. Which engineer will be more “guilty,” which less, this fact has no importance. Guilty is the regime of imperialism which concentrates the riches of the nations and of humanity into the hands of a few monopolists. It is necessary to put an end to this regime of monopoly; it is necessary to expropriate the expropriators.

Leon Trotsky


P.S. Now after receiving the issue of your paper dated December 10, I must make this addition to what I have said already.

When the Daily News affirms that I was the inspirer of the expropriation measures of the Mexican government, there is no calumny in that. It is simply false. But your paper has now launched a second report, which, while a lie, represents at the same time a calumny. The Daily News affirms that Mexican oil is sent to the German government on my counsel, and that moreover, my aim is to cause Stalin damage. The Daily News here in its own name launches the version which passed like a yellow thread through all the Moscow trials. The International Inquiry Commission under the leadership of Dr. John Dewey declared that the Moscow accusations were frameups. The editorials of your newspaper are not capable of converting an unmasked frameup into truth.

To whom the Mexican government sells oil is its own affair. I have nothing to say about that. I will add only that the “democracies” have a simple means of concentrating Mexican oil in their hands; they need only buy it. Insofar as Great Britain, for example, boycotts Mexican oil, it obliges the Mexican government to sell oil to Germany, Italy, or Japan. Chamberlain’s government apparently has more at heart the interests of the oil magnates than the interests of national defense, not to speak of the interests of “democracy.” But this is still not all. When the masters of destiny in the great democracies give Hitler a present of Czechoslovakia for his birthday and then manifest discontent toward the Mexican government which sells its oil to whoever wishes to buy, it is impossible not to say that here hypocrisy surpasses all admissible bounds and thus becomes stupid and ridiculous.

But I am preoccupied now with another aspect of the matter. The affirmation that thanks to Mexican oil, I want to help Hitler gain victory over Stalin is not only a lie, but also a calumny. The U.S.S.R. and Stalin are not the same thing. I am an adversary of Stalin but not of the U.S.S.R. The task of overthrowing the reactionary parasitic dictatorship of the Stalinist oligarchy is the task of the Russian workers and peasants. They cannot transfer this task to Hitler. Hitler is only the perfidious agent of German imperialism. Hitler’s victory would signify frightful economic, political, and national slavery for all the people of the U.S.S.R. and above all, the restoration of the rights of private capital. Or perhaps you think that I advocate expropriation of of resources only for Mexico? No, to defend the nationalization of the means of production realized by the October revolution – against Hitler as against all other imperialists – I consider this the elementary duty of every socialist, beginning with myself.

Coyoacan, D.F., Dec. 28, 1938 Leon Trotsky