Written: 3/4 August 1938.
First Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 34, 20 August 1938, p. 3.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.
1. I received by mail via New York City on August 1 the letter in German signed “Frederic.” The letter is dated July 14, without indicating the mailing place. The inner envelope bears in German the words, “for L.D.” It is necessary to establish from where and by what route the letter reached New York. Let me add that the marks and lines on the margin which appear on the photostatic copy were made by me in red pencil upon first reading the letter.
2. Klement began his letters to me with the words: “Dear Comrade L.D.” The present letter begins with the salutation: “Mr. Trotsky.” This salutation, apparently, should correspond to the hostile tone of the letter which announces the “break in relations.”
3. The handwriting of the letter is very similar to the handwriting of Klement. But after more careful comparison with old letters the difference becomes very striking. The handwriting of the last letter is not free, but studied, uneven; individual characters are drawn too carefully, others, on the contrary, are hesitating. Absence of erasures and careful spacing of words, especially at the end of lines show beyond any doubt that the letter has been copied from a draft. Was the letter really written by Klement? I shall not presume to deny it categorically. The handwriting is similar if each character is taken by itself; but the manuscript as a whole lacks naturalness and ease. If this is Klement’s handwriting, then it can be so only under very exceptional circumstances; more likely, however, it is skillful forgery.
4. From the point of view of the handwriting, the salutation and the signature draw attention. Clearly they have been written at different times (different shade of ink) and in a somewhat different hand. There is only one alternative: either the author of the letter hesitated a long time as to what salutation and what signature to use, and resolved the question only after the letter had bpen finished; or the forger had already samples of the words “Trotski” and “Frederic” before him from old correspondence while the rest of the letter had to be composed from individual characters. Therefore the greater naturalness and ease in the outline of the salutation and signature.
5. The name “Frederic” as a signature is difficult to explain. It is true that Klement once really used this pseudonym, but he abandoned it more than two years ago when he grew suspicious that the name had become known to the G.P.U. or the Gestapo. The letters which I have received from Klement in Mexico for the last year and a half have been signed either “Adolf” or “Camille,” but never “Frederic.” What made Klement return to a long abandoned pseudonym, especially in a letter to me? Here the hypothesis naturally arises that the forgers of the letter had in their possession old letters of Klement, signed “Frederic,” and that they were not aware of the change in pseudonym. For the investigation this circumstance is of very great importance.
6. In the content of the letter there are something like two levels which are mechanically connected with one another. On one hand, the letter repeats the vile falsifications of the G.P.U. in reference to my connections with fascism, relations with the Gestapo, etc.; on the other hand, it criticizes my policy seemingly from the point of view of the interests of the Fourth International, and tries in this manner to give an explanation for Klement’s “turn.” This ambiguity threads the entire letter.
7. On the fabricated conversations [1 “conservations”] between Klement and me concerning the admissibilty of “temporary concessions to fascist heads for the sake of the proletarian revolution,” the letter represents only a belated repetition of corresponding “confessions” at the Moscow trials. “Frederic” does not even attempt to introduce any vital, concrete feature into the Moscow frame-up. More than that, he declares simply that the “bloc” with fascism was concluded on “ a basis not altogether clear to me” (Frederic), as if thus renouncing in advance any attempt to understand or explain the methods, tasks, and purposes of this fantastic bloc. Thus it seems that somehow I found it necessary in the past to initiate “Frederic” into my alliance with Berlin, but did not initiate him into the meaning of this alliance. In other words, my “frankness” had the single purpose of helping out the G.P.U.
“Frederic” writes further on the same score that “what was called using fascism was direct collaboration with the Gestapo.” Not a word on what this collaboration consisted of and precisely how “Frederic” learned about it. In this part “Frederic” follows strictly the shameless methods of Vyshinsky-Yezhov.
8. Then follow accusations of an “internal” order intended to serve as motivation for Klement’s break with the Fourth International and with me personally. It is curious that this part of the letter should begin with a reference to my “Bonapartistic manners,” that is, it seems to return the epithet applied by me to the Stalinist regime. In passing, all the accusations in the trials against the Trotskyites are built on this pattern: Stalin plasters his political opponents with crimes of which he himself is guilty or with accusations which are advanced against him. Vyshinsky, the G.P.U. and its agents carry out this operation almost automatically. “Frederic” submissively follows the strictly set pattern.
9. The letter further lists all the negative consequences of my “Bonapartist” methods. “In the past,” he states, “we were abandoned by such people as Nin, Roman Well, Jacob Frank.” The combination of these three names is strange. Roman Well and Jacob Frank openly returned in their time to the Comintern after having attempted for a while to act in our ranks as secret agents of the Comintern. On the contrary, Andres Nin, after his break with us, maintained an independent position, remained hostile to the Comintern and fell victim of the G.P.U. Klement knows this distinction very well. But “Frederic” ignores it or does not know it.
10. “You have delivered the P.O.U.M.,” continues “Frederic,” “to the mangling of the Stalinists.” This phrase is absolutely enigmatic, not to say senseless Despite the P.O.U.M.’s open break with the Fourth International, the G.P.U. persecuted the members of the P.O.U.M. precisely as if they were Trotskyites; in other words the P.O.U.M. is subjected to “mangling” on the same basis as the adherents of the Fourth International. “Frederic’s” enigmatic phrase is apparently dictated by the desire to set against Trotskyism those members of the P.O.U.M. who have not yet been murdered by the G.P.U.
11. The accusations which refer to a later period are of no less false character. “Recently our organization was abandoned by such people as Sneevliet and Vereecken, who showed such great political sense and wisdom in the Spanish question.” Sneevliet and Vereecken in reality showed their sympathy for the P.O.U.M., which was accused by the Stalinists of being connected with fascism. Thus it seems that “Frederic” on the one hand solidarizes himself with the P.O.U.M., Sneevliet and Vereecken; and on the other, repeats the accusations against the opponents of the G.P.U. (among them, consequently, also against the P.O.U.M.) of connections with fascism. It must be added that during the last several years Klement often reproached me in friendly fashion with being too tolerant and patient in regard to Sneevliet and Vereecken. But apparently “Frederic” knows nothing about this.
12. “We were abandoned,” he continues, “by Molinier, Jan Bur with his group, Ruth Fischer, Maslov, Brandler, and others.” In this list the name of Brandler, who never belonged to the Trotskyite camp but on the contrary was always its irreconcilable and open enemy, strikes the eye immediately. Years of open struggle in which he invariably defended Stalinism against us testify to his animosity. Klement well knew the political figure of Brandler and our attitude toward him. He knew only too well, at the same time, the inner life of the Fourth International. Why did “Frederic” introduce Brandler’s name among the people who belonged to our movement and then broke with it? Two explanations are possible. If we grant that the letter was written by Klement, we must assume that he wrote it under the muzzle of a revolver and included Brandler’s name in order to show the forced character of his letter. If we proceed from the fact that the letter was forged, the explanation is indicated by the entire technic of the G.P.U., where ignorance is combined with brazenness. In the Moscow trial’s all opponents of Stalin were thrown into one heap. Among the members of the non-existent “right-Trotskyite” bloc were included not only Bukharin but also Brandler and even Souvarine. In accordance with the same logic Brandler finds himself among people who broke with the Fourth International to which he never belonged.
13. “It is puerile to think,” con-inues “Frederic,” “that public pinion will allow itself to be pacified by the simple declaration hat they are all agents of the G.P.U.” This phrase is even less understandable. None of us have said that Nin and other leaders of the P.O.U.M., being annihilated by the G.P.U., were agents of the G.P.U. This applies as well to the other people mentioned in the letter except Roman Well who through his activity openly distinguished himself in the service of the G.P.U. Klement knew very well that none of us advanced such preposterous accusations against the people listed in the letter. But the whole thing is that “Frederic,” in passing attempts to defend the American, Carleton Beals, and other friends and agents of the G.P.U., must consequently compromise the very accusation of connection with the G.P.U. Therefore this clumsy trick by means of which the suspicion is extended – in my name – to such people as evidently it cannot be applied at all. This again is the style of Stalin-Vyshinsky-Yagoda-Yezhov.
14. The name “Beals” is spelled incorrectly in the letter: “Bills.” Only a person not familiar with the English spelling could write in such a manner. But Klement knew the English language well, knew the name, Beals, and was very pedantic in spelling out names.
15. The German of the letter is correct; but it seems to me much more primitive and unwieldy than the language of Klement, who possessed stylistic abilities.
16. Worthy of attention, too, is the reference to the forthcoming International Conference, by means of which, I hope, in the words of the letter, “to save the situation” for the Fourth International. In reality, as can be seen from ample correspondence, Klement was the initiator of the Conference and took the most active part in its organization. The G.P.U. insofar as it was aware of the inner affairs of the Fourth International (through the press, internal bulletins, and possibly through secret agents) might have hoped by kidnapping Klement prior to the Conference to stop the organization work and prevent the Conference itself.
17. This same part of the letter contains a reference to the proposal of including Walter Held in the International Secretariat “apparently by orders from over there.” In other words the author of the letter wishes to impute that Walter Held is an agent of the Gestapo. The absurdity of this information is apparent to all who know Held. But naturally, casting a shadow upon one of the prominent adherents of the Fourth International is one of the designs of the G.P.U.
18. The letter ends with these words: “I have no wish whatever to come out openly against you: I have had enough of it all, I am tired. I go and leave my place for Walter Held.” The falsity of these phrases is absolutely evident. “Frederic” would not have written this letter if he or his masters did not intend in some way or another to utilize it subsequently. In what way? This is not yet apparent. Possibly it may be used in particular in the Barcelona trial held behind closed doors against the “Trotskyites.” But possibly too it is for a larger purpose.
What conclusions follow from the foregoing analysis? At first upon receipt of the letter I had almost no doubt that it was written by Klement’s own hand, but in a very nervous condition. My impression is explainable from the fact that I was accustomed to receiving letters from Klement and had never had any reason to question their authenticity. The more I scrutinized the text, however, the more I compared it with his preceding letters, the more I became convinced of the fact that the letter is only a very skillful forgery. The G.P.U. has no lack of specialists of all kinds. My friend, Diego Rivera, who has the refined eye of a painter does not at all doubt that the handwriting is forged. To solve this question we can and must utilize the services of a handwriting expert.
[Reports received from France, after investigation by handwriting experts, confirm Trotsky’s conviction that the letter is a forgery – Ed.]
If it should be established, as I believe, that the letter is a forgery, all the rest will become clear of itself:
Klement was kidnapped, spirited away, and probably killed. The G.P.U. fabricated the letter, representing Klement as a traitor to the Fourth International, possibly with the aim of shifting re-sponsibility for his murder upon the “Trotskyites.”
All this is entirely within the practices of the international gang. I consider this variant the most likely.
At first, as I have already stated, I assumed that the letter was written by Klement – at the point of a revolver or out of fear for the fate of people dear to him; or more correctly, not written but copied from an original placed before him by G.P.U. agents. In case this hypothesis is confirmed the possibility is not excluded that Klement is still alive and that the G.P.U. in the near fu ture will attempt to extract fur ther “voluntary” confessions from him. “Confessions” of this kind dictate their own reply from public opinion: let Klement, if he is alive, come out openly before the police, before the judicial authorities, or an impartial commission and tell them all he knows. We can predict in advance that the G.P.U. will in no case let Klement out of their hands.
Theoretically a third supposition is possible; namely, that Klement had suddenly radically altered his views and gone over voluntarily to the side of the G.P.U., drawing from this all the practical conclusions, that is, consenting to support all the frame-ups of this institution. One can go even further and assume that Klement has always been a G.P.U. agent. But all the facts, including the letter of July 14, make this hypothesis absolutely inconceivable. Not a few times Klement could have granted the G.P.U. the greatest services so far as it was a question of taking my life, the life of Leon Sedov, of determining the fate of my collaborators and my documents. He had the possibility of coming out openly during the Moscow trial with his “revelations,” which in those days at least would have made a much greater impression than now. But during the Moscow trials Klement did what he could to unmask the frame-ups, actively helping Sedov in gathering data. Klement showed great devotion for the movement and a serious theoretical interest in the discussion of debatable questions. To his pen belong a series of articles and letters showing that he had a very earnest, even ardent attitude toward the program of the Fourth International. To feign devotion and theoretical interest for a movement for a number of years – is a task more than difficult.
It is just as difficult to accept the hypothesis of a “sudden” turn within the last period. If Klement had voluntarily gone over to the Comintern and the G.P.U., no matter for what reason – he would have had no basis whatsoever for hiding. The above-mentioned Roman Well and Jacob Frank, as well as Senin, the brother of Well, did not at all hide after their “turn”; on the contrary, they came out openly in the press, and Well and Senin (the brothers Sobolevich) have even made a career. Finally, in the case of his voluntarily going over to the side of the Comintern, Klement as a capable and informed person should have written a much more coherent letter without self-evident incongruities and absurdities which any investigating magistrate, any impartial commission, armed with the necessary documents can easily refute.
These are the considerations which led to the conclusion that Klement was kidnapped by the G.P.U. and that his letter to me is a forgery, fabricated by the specialists of the G.P.U. It is very easy to refute this hypothesis: Frederic” must emerge from his hiding place and come out with open accusations. If he will not do this, it means that Klement is in the clutches of the G.P.U., and probably already “liquidated” as have been so many others.
The chief responsibility in solving the mystery of Rudolf Klement’s disappearance lies with the French police. Let us hope, no matter how difficult this may be, that they will this time prove themselves more persistent and more successful than they have been in solving all the preceding crimes of the G.P.U. on French soil.
Coyoacan, D.F. August 3, 1938
P.S. All the above had already been written when I received from Paris a letter by Comrade Rous, dated July 21, each line of which confirms the above conclusions.
1. Rous received a copy of the letter addressed to me, but signed “Rudolf Klement” and “Adolf.” Assuming the same signature, to be on the original addressed to me, Rous expressed legitimate astonishment over the letter being signed with the name “Adolf” and not “Camille,” the signature Klement used during the entire last period. In fighting against the espionage of the G.P.U. and the Gestapo, Klement changed his pseudonyms three times during the last few years in the following order: Frederic, Adolf, Camille. Obviously, the G.P.U. fell into a trap. Possessing the names: Klement, Frederic, and Adolf, to lend more plausibilty they placed on different copies all three of the names (which is absurd in itself), but did not use the only name which Klement actually utilized as his signature during the last period.
2. On July 8, that is five days prior to Klement’s disappearance, his portfolio of papers vanished in the subway. It is understood, of course, that the portfolio could not be found. Klement, who well knew that the G.P.U. in Paris acts as if it were in its own home, immediately informed every section of the Fourth International of the theft of the portfolio, suggesting that they cease sending letters to the old addresses.
3. On July 15, after receiving “Adolf’s” letter postmarked Perpignan, the French comrades visited Klement’s room. His table was set, everything was in order, not the least sign of preparation for departure! The importance of this circumstance does not need any elucidation.
4. Comrade Rous points out that the address on the letter from Perpignan was written as the Russians write it, first the name of the city, then at the bottom of the envelope the name of the street. It can be considered beyond all doubt that Klement, as a German and a European, never wrote addresses in this manner.
5. Why, asks Rous, is the name “Beals” written as in Russian, “Bills”; in other words, the Russian transliteration of the name is simply written in Latin characters?
Omitting other remarks from Rous’ letter (Rous and other French comrades will themselves bring these considerations to the attention of the public and of the French authorities), I shall limit myself now to stating that the first factual information received directly from France fully confirms the conclusions at which I arrived on the basis of the analysis of the letter signed “Frederic”; that is, Rudolf Klement has been kidnapped by the G.P.U.
Coyoacan, D.F., August 4, 1988
Last updated on: 12 September 2015