ISR Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialist Review, Winter 1962


Lillian Kiezel

The Biggest Fix?


From International Socialist Review, Vol.23 No.1, Winter 1962, pp.26-27.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Russian Revolution
by Alan Moorehead
Harper, New York. 1958. 301 pp.

Was the Russian revolution of October 1917 rigged? Were Lenin and Trotsky, who led the first successful working-class revolution in history, paid off by the Kaiser in a desperate attempt to defeat the allies in World War I? Forty-two years after the event, Alan Moorehead revives the slander that the Russian Revolution was the biggest fix in history.

Life magazine editors commissioned Moorehead, a well-known British author, to write the book because they wanted a popular full-length account of the Russian Revolution based upon the “findings” of Dr. Stephan T. Possony, professor of international relations at Georgetown university.

Possony’s ten-year study, financed in part by Life purportedly uncovered new evidence in materials released by the West German government. Moorehead says this “evidence” revealed, “I think beyond all reasonable doubt,” that Russian revolutionaries had been financed by the German Imperial Government of Kaiser Wilhelm.

But Moorehead, try as he may, adds nothing new to the forgeries that were dug up against the Bolsheviks by the Kerensky government and the Russian bourgeoisie before the October revolution. In 1918, equally damning “evidence” in the form of the Sisson Papers, was produced to justify allied armed intervention on the side of counterrevolution, in the civil war then raging in the young workers’ state.

After analysing the Sisson Papers in the book Russia Leaves the War, George F. Kennan, former US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, called them “unquestionable forgeries from beginning to end.”

“It is entirely possible,” Kennan claims, “that the Bolsheviki received clandestine subsidies from German sources during the summer and early autumn of 1917. There was nothing in the code of Bolshevik ethics to inhibit the acceptance of such subsidies and nothing that would have caused the Bolshevik leaders to feel the slightest sense of moral obligation to the Germans by virtue of having accepted them.”

But Kennan is forced to add,

“There is no reason to believe ... that the Bolshevik leaders were in any position of clandestine subservience to the Germans in the winter of 1917-1918. To suggest, as the Sisson documents did, that this was all a bluff of cosmic proportions, that Lenin and Trotsky were in reality beholden to German masters throughout ... is to move into the realm of historical absurdity.”

Harrison Salisbury, New York Times writer on the Soviet Union, agrees with Kennan. In his August 24, 1958 review of Moorehead’s Russian Revolution, Salisbury is also compelled to dismiss the Moorehead charge, even if somewhat regretfully.

“The nub of the historical question,” he said, “has long been not whether the Germans had an investment in the Bolsheviks but whether this investment in any way influenced the course of Russian history.”

The famous case of the “sealed train” is rehashed by Moorehead. The “scandal” began when Lenin, stranded in Switzerland after the fall of the Czar in February 1917, felt it imperative to return to Russia as soon as possible. Ludendorff, the Kaiser’s foreign minister, offered Lenin use of the train so that he could return to Russia via Germany.

Trotsky testified about this event before the Dewey Commission of Inquiry in 1937, which was investigating Stalin’s charges against Trotsky at the Moscow Trials.

“While Lenin did cross Germany utilizing Ludendorff’s false hopes that Russia would disintegrate as a result of the internal struggle,” Trotsky said, “he [Lenin] neither concealed his program nor the purpose of his trip. He called a small conference in Switzerland of internationalists from various countries, who approved the trip. Upon his arrival in Petrograd he explained to the Soviet and the workers the purpose and nature of his trip.”

In a review of Moorehead’s book in Saturday Review, August 23, 1958, Isaac Deutcher, the noted historian, at present engaged in writing a biography of Trotsky, said,

“The accusation that Lenin was in German pay was first made by his enemies over 40 years ago and given currency in the West during the years of allied intervention in Russia only to be discredited and forgotten for over 30 years.

“The cold war has now given it fresh currency. Morally and historically the accusation is on the same level as the Stalinist charge that Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin, and Tukachevsky were Hitler’s spies.”

Moorehead does his best to transform a 42-year-old forgery into a fact, but he, along with Possony and editors of Life, are as unsuccessful as their predecessors. Their failure stands as a tribute to the integrity and honesty of the Bolshevik leaders. The Russian workers and peasants, under this leadership, gave birth to the Soviet Union – the precursor of mankind’s future that marked historically the beginning of the end of the capitalist system.

Top of page

ISR Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 21 May 2009