Written: 7 September 1935.
First Published: New Militant, Vol. I No. 40, 28 September 1935, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2016. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.
The recently published letter of the Bolshevik-Leninist who had made his escape from the U.S.S.R. depicts a horrible scene of persecutions and reprisals on the part of the bureaucracy, and a no less horrible picture of the physical straits in which hundreds and thousands of devoted, unselfish and self-sacrificing revolutionists find themselves. Recently their terms of exile and imprisonment have been extended two, three, and even five years, without any new charges whatsoever. A considerable number of them have been in prison and exile since the beginning of 1928, i.e. for a period of almost eight years. It is apparent even from the official Soviet press that additional hundreds, if not thousands of old and young revolutionists have been subjected to arrests, exile, and incarceration during the current year, for not sharing the international policy of Stalin, or for merely disapproving his brutality with regard to Zinoviev, Kamenev, and others. Letters from exile received by relatives, as rare exceptions, depict a situation that is hopeless and that gives no sign of improvement. For instance, an old revolutionist writes from exile, “There is no sense in sending money here, it cannot be used here ... Nothing is to be obtained here, not even vegetables.” Another exile, cut off from his friends for years, deprived of the opportunity to correspond with his family, even with his children, writes on a postcard which came through accidentally: “We are on the road of the old Lafargues,” thus hinting at an attempt at collective suicide, most probably through a hunger strike. News from prisons arrive much more rarely than from exile, and they depict new horrors, which leave far behind everything that Stalin perpetrated during the first years of his struggle against the Left Opposition. That is how matters stand.
Moral and material assistance must be given, and it is needed immediately. The moral aid should consist in the exposure on the widest scale possible of the Bonapartist bestialities to which the captive revolutionists are being subjected. Any scrap of information that arrives must be given the widest possible circulation, the attention and sympathy of the workers must be aroused in those true heroes who have remained faithful to the banner of revolutionary internationalism over a period of several years under conditions of complete isolation, cut off from all information, and subjected to unheard of privations. It is necessary to protest openly and with all our might and main against the Stalinist terror which is directed not in the defense of the revolution against the class enemies but in the defense of the autocratic rule of the bureaucracy against the vanguard workers.
The material assistance must come in the form of collections of funds for transmission to addresses in our possession: the men in exile and in prison, wherever they are able, share the remitted sums fraternally between themselves.
But agitation, protests and collection of funds do not suffice. It is necessary to provide constant and correct organizational assistance to those revolutionist-internationalists about whom the Second and Third Internationals remain unconcerned, who are ignored by the reformist trade unions, and whom the bourgeoisie of the entire world rightly consider to be their bitterest enemies.
The question, of course, is not restricted to the U.S.S.R. In China, the prisons of Chiang Kai-Shek, the former ally of Stalin, hold numerous Bolshevik-Leninists, with Chen Du Siu at their head, the old revolutionist, founder of the Communist party, who is serving an eleven year prison term. The leaders of the so-called “united front” painstakingly avoid all reference to the very name of Chen Du Siu, a name, however, that should become known to every revolutionary worker. In Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Greece, Indo-China, and a number of other countries the fighters for the Fourth International fill in increasing numbers the jails and concentration camps of the reactionary dictatorship. Even in Holland, the classic land of “democracy,” revolutionists-internationalists like Sneevliet and Schmidt have paid severe tribute to the jails of capitalism during the recent years.
However, concerned here are not only the Bolshevik-Leninists and the fighters for the Fourth International. In the countries of the Old and New Worlds, the numerous revolutionary organizations and groups that stand outside both old Internationals and that have not taken their place under the banner of the New International count no few victims in their own ranks. The same applies to colonies. Suffice to name, for instance, the Hindoo revolutionist Roy, now serving a 14-year jail sentence, who was shamefully betrayed by the Comintern in whose ranks he had fought.
The still closer drawing together of the Second and Third Internationals as well as the trade union bureaucracies on a common platform of social-patriotism – the ground for which was laid by the Moscow Congress – holds in store especially severe trials for the proletarian fighters, who stand under the banner of internationalism and revolutionary defeatism. Screening themselves by patriotic necessity, and even perhaps by concern for the “defense of the U.S.S.R.,” the police and the prosecuting attorneys of capital will henceforth deal the internationalists redoubled blows, in order thus to remove the obstacles in the path of the “united front” of Stalin-Laval-Cachin-Blum-Jouhaux, and also in the path of ... the new imperialist war. He is blind, or at any rate near-sighted, who fails to see this perspective. Revolutionists must prepare themselves beforehand for supreme trials and sacrifices.
The working class is divided into different political camps; between those organizations which enter neither into the Second or the Third Internationals there are also serious disagreements. These cannot be eliminated artificially. But if there is a sphere in which honest revolutionary workers can and should combine their efforts, it is in the organization of assistance to the fighters who are captives of the bourgeoisie and who have been betrayed by the social-patriots. It is necessary to set immediately to the creation of a joint-party and an international association to give aid to the revolutionists persecuted for their fidelity to the principles of internationalism.
All the parties and groups standing under the banner of the Fourth International would of course readily join such an organization. But this is not enough. It is necessary to come to an agreement with all the other independent revolutionary parties, as well as the left wing minorities within the old Internationals and the trade unions. The question is of a burning political character. Great battles are ahead. It is necessary to build not only the army, but also at the same time to prepare the Red Cross and the sanitary corps.
Sept. 7, 1935
Last updated on: 25 February 2016