Written: 5 September 1937.
Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. 1 No. 6, 18 September 1937, pp. 7 & 8.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2014. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.
“The London Bureau of Revolutionary Socialist Parties” was invited, together with the Second and Third Internationals, to participate in the International Commission of Inquiry on the Moscow trials. On May 21, Fenner Broockway, in the name of the London Bureau, rejected the invitation. The pertinent section of his reply reads verbatim as follows:
“The International Bureau is not able to endorse the American Commission of Inquiry or to be represented on it because it takes the view that a disastrous mistake has been made in initiating the inquiry through a Committee which describes itself as a ‘Committee for the Defense of Trotsky’.”
The London Bureau, it would seem, is vitally concerned in the success of the inquiry and if it refuses to give any assistance it is solely due to the fact that the investigation was initiated by the “Defense” Committee. However, Mr. Brockway fails to specify just who should have initiated the inquiry. The new head of the G.P.U. Yezhov? Or the secretary of the Comintern, Dimitrov? Or the King’s Counselor, Pritt? Or the secretary of the London Bureau, Fenner Brockway? Or, finally, the Archbishop of Canterbury? The most “impartial’’ of the above-listed candidates, one should imagine, is Brockway himself. But, as is obvious from his letter of last February to the American Socialist, Devere Allen, none other than Brockway himself not only refused to initiate the inquiry but did everything in his power to prevent others from taking the initiative, and, furthermore, adduced arguments involving not the interests of impartiality but those of the Moscow bureaucracy. Here is what Brockway wrote to Allen: The inquiry “... will merely arouse prejudice in Russia and in Communist circles.” Isn’t it astonishing? In a letter not intended for publication Brockway incautiously spoke up as a member of the “Committee for the Defense of” – Stalin, Dimitrov, Vyshinsky and Yagoda. I pointed this out in the press at the time. Not a word came in reply from Brockway. Several months elapsed. In his letter of May 28, Brockway again came out against the inquiry, but this time with a completely different set of arguments. But in essence he still remains a member of the undercover “Committee for the Defense” of the falsifiers against their victims.
There is no juridical or moral ground whatever for the suspicion which Brockway, in the name of the London Bureau, seeks to cast over the inquiry. All that the American Committee did was to take the initiative. Furthermore, the sum and substance of its initiative consisted precisely in this: To assure, in collaboration with other organizations, an objective and a conscientious investigation through a special International Commission, entirely independent of the initiators.
The composition of the American Committee is not a homogeneous one. There are individuals in it who understood from the very outset the absurdity and vileness of the Moscow accusations. Other members had no settled opinions on this score but they were either alarmed by or indignant over the “totalitarian” character of Moscow justice and over the fact that the Norwegian “Socialist”’ flunkeys of the G.P.U. had placed me behind lock and key at the very moment when I needed freedom most to defend not only myself but hundreds of others. It goes without saying that had the American Committee been composed of hypocrites it might have called itself “The Committee for the Defense of Eternal Precepts of Morality.” But it choose to act openly. By “Defense of Trotsky” the Committee had and has in mind not to provide the alliance between Trotsky and Hitler with a cover but to provide Trotsky with an opportunity to publicly refute the accusation made against him. Nothing more! It is quite sufficient.
The members of the Committee understood from the first just as well as Brockway did that the verdict of the International Commission would carry weight only if the inquiry were conducted with all the requisite guarantees for thoroughness and objectivity, in particular, with the participation in the Commission of representatives of the different trends in political thought. The Committee began by inviting publicly the representatives of the Moscow Government, the Comintern, “Friends of the Soviet Union,” the Second International, the London Bureau, etc. It was, naturally, not a question of the political or moral evaluation of Stalinism, Trotskyism, Bolshevism or Marxism. No political tendency would agree to serve as the object of appraisal by an inter-party commission; no rational commission would undertake such an insuperable task. The appraisal of political tendencies is made by the masses in the course of the political struggle. The final verdict is brought in by history.
The task of the inquiry of the International Commission did and does consist only of verifying certain specific charges made against certain individuals. The political conclusions from the verdict of the Commission will be drawn by each tendency in its own way. This made it all the more essential for every organization interested in bringing out the truth to participate in the investigation. But the direct and indirect agents and “friends” of the G.P.U. and the friends of friends flatly refused to participate. Some of them, in the spirit, of Fenner Brockway’s first letter, argued that it was impermissible to arouse any prejudice against Stalin and his Comintern; others, in the style of Fenner Brockway’s second letter, adjudged the commission not “impartial” enough. Both the former and the latter had ample justification for fearing an investigation. The London Bureau protected their rear.
To reveal more vividly the unworthy role played by this Bureau we shall dwell on another, and more recent case. The gangsters of the G.P.U. in Spain murdered Andres Nin, the leader of the P.O.U.M.. Nin was an opponent of mine. Fenner Brookway, on the contrary, considered Nin a co-thinker. If the London Bureau and other “impartial” Pontius Pilates had joined in an investigation of the Moscow frame-ups immediately after the Zinoviev-Karnenev trial, the G.P.U, might not have dared to put in circulation the palpably false charge that the leaders of the P.O.U.M. are collaborating with General Franco. But this was not done. The “impartial” ones shielded the G.P.U. As a result, Nin has been murdered, together with scores and hundreds of others. The P.O.U.M. has been crushed. What has been let slip cannot be retrieved. Do Messrs. Brockway think that the time has now come for an international investigation of the crimes of the G.P.U. in Spain – of the frame-ups, pillages and murders? Or are they waiting for the sterilized priests of impartiality to initiate the investigation? Let Brockway supply me with their addresses and telephone numbers. I will immediately get in touch with them. But if, as I suspect, they do not exist in nature, let the London Bureau take upon itself the initiative of calling the inquiry. Let the Bureau, emulating the example of the American Committee, turn to all the existing labor Internationals and to outstanding individuals in science, literature and art who are known for their honesty and integrity. If someone were to say that Fenner Brockway would make a “disastrous mistake” by initiating the inquiry instead of allowing matters to rest with Stalin or Negrin, every rational and honest person would call such an “accuser” a brazen hypocrite.
In conclusion, I consider it necessary to recall here another not unimportant circumstance. In the very same February letter in which he expressed his touching concern for the interests of Stalin, Yagoda and Dimitrov, Fenner Brockway proposed to create an international commission of inquiry ... into my political activity and, furthermore, with rather strange “precipitancy” proposed to include in this commission Norman Thomas, Otto Bauer, Branting, and other bitter political enemies of mine. The very idea of an “official” appraisal of the political activity of an individual or a party through the medium of a commission of inquiry is so absurd that it properly belongs only on the pages of a provincial humorous magazine. Of course, Fenner Brockway himself could not have failed to understand this. But he attempted to make use of the gory Moscow amalgams in order to deal a blow at Bolshevism (“Trotskyism”) which he hates so much; in addition he tried to cover up his factional struggle with the cloak of an impartial “investigation.” Specialists in morals are notoriously fond of fishing in troubled waters.
We, the “amoral” Bolsheviks, proceed differently. We openly criticized Nin’s policies when he was alive. We did not alter our evaluation of him after he died. But inasmuch as we never for a moment doubted the integrity of this proletarian fighter, we stand ready to do everything in our power to rehabilitate his name and mercilessly brand his executioners. We declare in advance to Fenner Brockway and all other specialists in morals that not a single one of our friends and co-thinkers will attempt to use the investigation of Nin’s murder as a pretext to settle scores with Nin’s policies. To wage a struggle against opportunism and centrism we have no need to hide behind a “commission”, created for a totally different purpose. We leave such methods to the Tartuffes of idealistic morality. We, gross materialists, prefer to call a “nettle but a nettle and the faults of fools but folly”. We deal blows to our adversaries openly and in our own names.
Coyoacan, Sept. 5, 1937
Last updated on: 21 November 2014