Source: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 13, 4 July 1931, p. 4.
Transcription/HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2013. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.
Pravda of March 12 published a note entitled Marx on K. Kautsky and signed “the Marx-Engels Institute”. This note has subsequently been reproduced without any comment by the world press of the Comintern. Externally, the center of gravity of this note lay in the remarkable passage from the letter of Marx in 1881 which gives a crushing characterization of Kautsky, a characterization which was, in short, fully verified by the future.
The publication of the note solemnly signed by the whole Institute has, however another aim: to befoul the person who created the Marx-Engels Institute and was at its head. Here is what is said at the end of the note: “The original of this letter was turned over to Riazanov by the well-known Menshevik Lydia Zederbaum-Dan already in 1925. Riazanov carefully concealed the letter.”
During the trial of the Mensheviks, Riazanov was accused before the whole world by the attorney general of the republic of collaboration in the conspiracy against the dictatorship of the proletariat. A few months after this “accusation,” the whole of humanity has communicated to it a new crime of Riazanov: he has, it seems, again into the bargain ... concealed the quotation from Marx’s letter of 1881. Nothing but this need of advancing against comrade Riazanov such circumstances to make his case worse, and which are all out of proportion to the first accusation shows that the so-called conscience of Messrs. accusers is not tranquil. By combining, as usual, disloyalty with rudeness, these people only discover things with their aid, and only betray the fragility of the prop.
We explained at the time in a hypothetical form how the accusation against Riazanov originated. Everything that is written us from Moscow on this subject fully confirms our suppositions. It is not difficult to reveal the mechanism of the supplementary accusation launched today by the same accusers under the pseudonym of the Marx-Engels Institute. “The Menshevik Lydia Zederbaum” turned over the letter of Marx to Riazanov back in 1925. Why did she give it to him? As a token of Riazanov’s back in him? As a token of Riazanov’s friendship with the Mensheviks, and of their future collaboration in the conspiracy against the dictatorship of the proletariat? The “Institute” is speechless on this subject. The word “the Menshevik” ought to shut the mouth of all who hesitate, all the more so because since 1925, Riazanov “carefully concealed” the letter. Why did he conceal it? Obviously in order to safeguard the interests of Kautsky and of world Menshevism. It is true that between 1925, when Riazanov entered into conspiracy with the Mensheviks to conceal the historic document, and 1931, when he was mixed up in the conspiracy against the dictatorship of the proletariat, Riazanov published not a few documents and works which caused Menshevism considerable Vexation. But nothing doing. The readers of the press of the Comintern must be guided along the old formula of the devout: “I believe it no matter how absurd it is.”
Good, the reader will say, but what did happen with the letter? Is it authentic, did Riazanov really hide it? And if he did, then why? It is enough to look at the quotation in order not to doubt the authenticity of the letter: Marx cannot be falsified, even by Yaroslavsky in collaboration with Yagoda. As to the circumstances under which the letter was “concealed”, we can, again only propose a hypothesis whose verisimilitude, however, is guaranteed a hundred percent by all the circumstances of the affair.
Riazanov could receive the letter only from the hands of those who held it. The management of the heritage of Engels has fallen into the hands of Bernstein by force of the same historical logic of the epigones which today permits Yaroslavsky to dispose of the heritage of Lenin. Riazanov manifested an exceptional perseverance an ingenuity in gathering together the heritage of Marx and of Engels. Like the Lenin Institute, the Marx-Engels Institute bought numerous documents from the Mensheviks and through the intermediary of Mensheviks: it is enough to refer, for example to the archives bought by the Lenin Institute from Potressov.  It is beyond doubt that the “Menshevik Lydia Zederbaum’” did not simply turn over the letter to Riazanov, but she probably sold it as an intermediary for Bernstein or someone else among the old men who had the letter by Marx. It is quite natural that in selling this letter, which draws a crushing picture of Kautsky, Bernstein or the other proprietor of the document from the same circle, put as a condition for the sale that the letter should not be published while Kautsky was alive or while the one selling it was alive. The rigorous manner in which Bernstein submitted to this sort of censorship the correspondence of Marx and Engels is sufficiently well known. There was no other choice left to comrade Riazanov: in order to get possession of the letter, he was obliged to accept the condition imposed upon him. Anybody else in his place would have acted in the same way. After having accepted this condition, he naturally carried it out. It is only thanks to this extreme prudence and loyalty in all matters of this kind that Riazanov has been able to extract from the hands of adversaries precious elements of the heritage of our classics. We think that it is now clear why Riazanov “concealed” the letter. Whoever knows Riazanov will not doubt for an instant that more than anybody else, Riazanov burned with the desire to publish his valuable find. But he waited for the proper moment to strike. By means of a raid, the letter of Marx was found at Riazanov’s and it was not only made public, that is, not only was the engagement made by Riazanov broken, but it was turned around as a proof against Riazanov. What should we call such a manner of acting? Let us call it by its right name: it is a way of acting à la Stalin.
1. Potressov, former Menshevik collaborator of Lenin and Martov in Iskra. Today an émigré, he publishes in Paris an organ which fights, at the extreme Right wing of the Mensheviks, against Soviet Russia. – Ed.
Last updated on: 6.1.2013