Physical Attack, Slander, and Provocation

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Author(s) Leon Trotsky
Written 1 October 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 389-392]
Keywords : Slander, Stalinism

The situation of the Stalin faction in the USSR and the Comintern, which is becoming more and more critical (its ideological base is completely undermined and is shown to be so more clearly each day), and the indubitable successes of the Communist Left Opposition are forcing the Stalinists to continually sharpen their struggle against us. This struggle takes on and will take on different forms, which can be reduced to three principal kinds: (a) physical attack; (b) slander; and (c) provocation.

Physical attack leads in the USSR to legal assassinations of Bolshevik-Leninists (Blumkin, Silov, Rabinovich) by the GPU, that is, by the Agabekovs, or the Yagodas, who differ not a whit from the Agabekovs. In China and Greece the assassinations are perpetrated in ambush. In the other countries they have not yet gone to the point of murder — they content themselves in the meantime with raids and beatings (as, for example, in Leipzig).

Slander in its turn takes different forms, preserving invariably its vile character. Thus Bluecher, on Stalin's order, spoke of two "Trotskyists" who deserted the Red Army in the Far East. The Soviet newspapers write about sabotage on the railroads by "Trotskyists" and of the train wrecks they arranged. News stories of this kind, fabricated under the immediate direction of Stalin (in this field he is particularly skillful) are systematically put into circulation. Their purpose is clear: to prepare new bloody attacks against the committed revolutionaries who refuse to betray the October Revolution.

In Europe this slander takes on a more circumspect and general character: "counterrevolutionary," "against the defense of the USSR," "support of the social democracy,” etc. Dividing, poisoning, and weakening the proletarian vanguard, the Stalinists are trying to prevent a conciliation between the Left Opposition and the proletarian base of the party, because such a conciliation, which is essential for the success of communism, would inflict a telling blow to the Stalinist apparatus. This once again confirms the fact that the Stalin regime has become the principal obstacle in the development of the USSR and the Comintern.

The third form of the struggle — provocation — is made much easier by the fact that it takes place among members of the same party. The GPU floods Opposition cells, groups, deportation colonies, etc., with its agents, who afterwards confess or instigate confessions from others. These same GPU agents attribute to the Opposition real or imagined "Wrangel officers,” deserters, and railroad wreckers, thereby preparing the basis for the bloody attacks.

Undoubtedly as the International Opposition grows the methods of provocation will be applied on an ever wider scale against the other national sections; this is the source of gravest danger. Stalin has already shown that in the struggle against the Left Opposition he will stop at nothing — not even at a bloc with the bourgeois diplomats and police. The conditions of Trotsky's expulsion to Turkey speak for themselves. Stalin's and Thälmann's agreement with the Social Democratic government barring Trotsky's entry into Germany, Cachin’s conference with Bessedovsky and Dovgalevsky on the same subject, Stalin's bloc with the German publisher of Kerensky's slanderous book, the scandalous character of the expulsion of our friend Andres Nin, the leader of the Spanish communists, to reactionary Estonia — all are but a small part of the many exploits of this sort.

The Italian Stalinists revealed in the press the secret names of the Oppositionists, thus exposing them to attack by the police. There is no need to add that the Agabekovs, who swarm within the GPU, brought up in the struggle against the Bolshevik-Leninists, are quite capable of betraying the Oppositionists into the hands of the capitalist police; at any rate, they will not be chastised by Stalin for doing that.

The Opposition is thus exposed more and more to the simultaneous and sometimes joint blows of Stalin's agents and the bourgeois police, and often it is not easy to distinguish who delivers the blow. For example, quite recently two agents provocateurs, posing as Oppositionists, tried to penetrate the central body of the Opposition, and it is difficult to determine whether they are in the pay of the Polish Okhrana, the French police, or Stalin's agency. Similar cases are certain to multiply.

Our Leipzig comrades showed remarkable discretion in refusing to give the Social Democratic police, summoned by neighbors, the names of those who attacked the house of Comrade Buchner. We look for a verdict on the crimes of Stalin's agents, not from the Social Democratic police, but from the Communist workers. But it is altogether evident that if attacks and provocations become more frequent, they will, by the inescapable logic of the struggle and independently of us, be publicized, not to speak of the possibility that a new Agabekov, deserting to the capitalist camp, may disclose to the press the Stalinist plots against the Opposition, as Bessedovsky recounted his negotiations with Cachin. It is unnecessary to point out what damage is done in the end to the interests of the USSR and the prestige of the Comintern by the poison that activities of this sort introduce into the working-class movement.

What ought to be the attitude of the Opposition in the face of physical attack, slander, and provocation?

1. We should be guided in our policy, not by blind revenge toward Stalin's secret police, but by a political goal: to compromise criminal methods and their authors in the eyes of the Communist workers.

2. We should carefully avoid all steps which could, even though by fault of the Stalinists, introduce, directly or indirectly, prejudice against the USSR or the Comintern. And not for one minute do we identify either the USSR or the Comintern with the Stalinist faction.

3. While we do everything in our power to prevent the Stalinist atrocities from being used by the class enemy against the proletarian revolution, it is indispensable, nevertheless, to communicate to the Communist ranks, by word of mouth, by circular letters, and by intervention at party meetings, all facts about attacks, slander, and provocation that have been verified.

4. After each new case capable of awakening the revolutionary conscience of the Communist workers, it is indispensable to explain again and again and to repeat that the Communist Left Opposition wishes only an open and comradely ideological struggle in the interest of the proletarian revolution, and that the Opposition tirelessly calls upon the party members to establish honest methods of ideological struggle, without which the education of true revolutionaries is impossible.

5. During the election of delegates to conferences, of members to local and central bodies of the Opposition, of editors, etc., the candidates' past performance must be carefully probed in order to prevent the infiltration of agents provocateurs. One of the best forms of control is inquiry among the workers who have been in prolonged contact with the given person.

6. In cases where Opposition organizations learn of a new attack or provocation prepared by an agent of Stalin, it will be necessary to warn, in writing, the leading organs of the official Communist Party, telling them that before the eyes of the Communist workers we hurl back upon the leaders themselves the responsibility for the crimes that are being prepared.

7. All cases of the character mentioned above must be immediately communicated to the International Secretariat, with exact information of the circumstances, the names of the participants, etc. That will permit us to conduct a campaign on an international scale.

We have no doubt — and all the past experience of the revolutionary movement proves it — that if all our sections show firmness, perseverance, and vigilance in the struggle, all the poisonous methods of Stalinism will be turned against Stalinism itself, and will serve to strengthen the position of the Bolshevik-Leninists.