In the second leg of his Latin American tour, Alan Woods of the International Marxist Tendency enjoyed a rapturous reception across Brazil as he launched the newly updated edition of Trotsky's final masterpiece: his unfinished biography of Stalin.
"Stalin, an analysis of the man and his influence" is a unique, extraordinary book by a mature Trotsky, which studies the relationship between the individual and his role in history with a depth of historical materialist analysis that is unprecedented in Marxist literature. This is a book that helps us understand the world we live in today.
This biography was being written when Trotsky was assassinated. For more than 70 years, the world has only had access to an adulterated and manipulated edition released by a bourgeois publishing house in the US, which owned the rights, translated by Charles Malamuth. Natália Sedova, Trotsky’s comrade and widow, unsuccessfully tried to prevent its publication. That edition was the only one known in Brazil until now. To get an idea of the difference: the deformed edition has about 450 pages and the reorganized version has about 1,000.
In 1980, Trotsky's archives at Harvard University were opened to the public and years later Rob Sewell (editor of the British paper of the IMT, Socialist Appeal) found a vast amount of material for the book that had not been used. After a decade of work by Rob Sewell and Alan Woods, both from the International Marxist Tendency, the text was reassembled, parts of it retranslated from Russian to English, and cleared of the "creations" of the translator of the 1940 edition, while a vast amount of previously unpublished material was added.
This is the only edition that has received the approval of Esteban Volkov, the grandson of the author, who recognizes this as the only valid version of his grandfather's work and therefore signs the preface of the book.
In Brazil, the book was edited by Editora Marxista and Editora Movimento and was released with a video-conference by Volkov, (who also runs the Leon Trotsky Museum in Mexico), in the presence of Alan Woods, who came to the country especially for this launch. Launch meetings have already taken place in São Paulo, Florianópolis, Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro.
This extraordinary book, edited by Woods, has already been published in English, Spanish and Italian, and editions are being prepared in French, German, Russian, Danish, Swedish, Greek and Urdu, amongst other languages.
In São Paulo: a full and enthusiastic auditorium attends launch of Stalin
Stalin was launched on 4 October in the presence of 300 people on the packed-out third floor of the Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP).
The first in a series of book launches in Brazil, this event in São Paulo saw the participation of Woods (who coordinated the English edition) and Volkov. Serge Goulart, leader of the Marxist Left, represented Editora Marxista, while Roberto Robaina, leader of the Socialist Left Movement (MES) spoke for Editora Movimento. Also speaking at the event was the translator of the Brazilian edition, Caio Dezorzi, and university lecturer Beatriz Abramides, Bia, from the executive of APROPUC (lecturers' union at PUC/SP).
Bia opened the event by announcing Esteban's participation and giving him the floor. Esteban gave an emotional greeting in which he emphasized the importance of the initiative to publish the true legacy of his grandfather for the Brazilian public and thanked the editors Goulart and Robaina.
According to Goulart, the material being presented had a special significance. "This book is a masterpiece by Trotsky, a key work. It is not any book, it is not a biography of Trotsky's opponent," he stressed. Noting its relevance to the audience, he continued: "It is a fundamental book, that when you finish reading, you will come out understanding a little better, more deeply, the 20th Century and the world we are living in today, one which was forged by the Russian Revolution. This book helps illuminate our struggle for socialism.”
Drawing a parallel with the relationship between the Bolsheviks and the Commune of Paris, Robaina pointed out: "The book Stalin reclaims this relationship, and at the same time tells how we had an experience, which was the experience of bureaucratization, which was another fundamental point from which to draw conclusions. And the richest part of the book is that it tells just how this process developed."
Woods emphasized how the publication Stalin stands out in this centenary of the Russian Revolution. The leader of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) stressed that if the aim of revolutionaries is the struggle for historical truth, historical truth is contained in the work he held in his hands. It dismantles the lies thrown against the Russian Revolution, against Bolshevism, against Lenin, and against Trotsky.
"Finally I have great pride and great honor to have in my hands this book that like a phoenix has been reborn from the ashes", said Woods, raising and shaking a copy of Stalin. "And in my opinion this is a great book that deserves to be put together with such great books as The Revolution Betrayed, the History of the Russian Revolution, or My Life. A wonderful book that contains many lessons, " he said, also welcoming the launch of the Brazilian edition.
The audience participating in the launch filled all the seats in the auditorium, and also had to stand or sit on the sides of the venue. At the end of the event, the participants applauded cheerfully and then raised their fists and sang The Internationale.
The attendance was a success and there were long queues of buyers who wanted to get the book autographed by Woods.
Emotion and enthusiasm at the launch in Santa Catarina
The book launch in Florianópolis, in the auditorium of the Federation of Trade Unions of Santa Catarina (FECESC), on the night of Thursday, 5 Oct, was a success with 136 present. Woods began his presentation of the previously unpublished version of the book Stalin by Leon Trotsky saying that "A Roman writer of antiquity once said 'All books have their own destiny', and in all world literature there is not a single book with a more extraordinary destiny than this."
Serge Goulart, of the Marxist Left and publisher of the book at the Editora Marxist publishing house, described the book Stalin as a "Weapon of mass destruction against capitalism", an "instrument of political education for revolutionaries" and said that this was a book in which "for the first time in history a theoretical and political giant writes a book about an intellectual dwarf ". Just look at Stalin's legacy compared to Trotsky's, and that is plain to see.
Israel Dutra, of the Left Socialist Movement [MES], representing Editora Movimento, said that "Trotsky's struggle for truth was decisive and this struggle remains decisive for the revolutionaries of today". For him, "the book Stalin is an inheritance that allows for struggle and compromise. He ended by saying that "We are not afraid to say that we are Communists. We are heirs of the October Revolution."
Trotsky saw all his family, friends and comrades who made the revolution by his side, killed, slandered, and sent to forced labour camps. Still, he died defending the legacy of the Russian Revolution, explaining the problems that developed, and defended the continuity of the world revolution. Even during Stalin's period of greatest persecution against him, he continued to write great books of Marxist theory. "A man against the whole world, a man who had before him the greatest, most brutal, bloodthirsty, murderous apparatus in the history of the world," explained Woods, "who continued to fight until the last moment, until on August 20, 1940, in an action of vile cowardice, an agent of Stalin killed him. "
Towards the end of the meeting, Alan said: "It is very easy to kill a human being, we are very fragile and weak animals, but you can not kill an idea whose time has come."
"This book should never have appeared. When Stalin learned that he had finally killed his number one enemy, he thought it was all settled. However, seven decades later we are here defending the only ideas capable of changing the planet, destroying the nightmare of capitalism, imperialism and creating a new civilization,” exclaimed Woods, to a visibly moved audience.
The launch in Florianópolis was initially scheduled to take place at the UFSC university, but due to the suicide of the rector, it had to be moved at the last minute to the Federation of Trade Unions of Santa Catarina (FECESC), 10 kilometers away from the university. Even so, the activity was a success with the presence of 136 people, among them a delegation from Joinville.
The enthusiastic meeting brought together young people, students, workers, trade unionists and social movement activists, who were thrilled and applauded many times. Many comrades were crying when Woods explained the shooting of the Trotskyists in the Vorkuta fields, in Siberia, and that they went to the their certain deaths singing the Internationale and shouting "long live the Revolution, Lenin and Trotsky".
The event was attended by Francisco Alano, president of the Trade Union Federation, who ceded the venue and also acquired his autographed copy by Woods, as did dozens of others present. The enthusiasm was so strong that in the end, after prolonged applause, all stood up and sang the Internationale.
Porto Alegre book launch: a successful political meeting
In Porto Alegre, Stalin was launched on the night of Friday, 6 October, in the City Council auditorium. About 100 participants listened attentively to the speakers and the introduction by Woods. The panel was formed by Robaina as a moderator; Goulart, Luciana Genro (PSOL's national leader) and Woods himself.
Volkov was also present through a live video link from Mexico, greeting the launch of the book and a thanking the Brazilian editors.
The enthusiastic attendees included several PSOL leaders, such as Rio Grande do Sul MP Pedro Ruas and Porto Alegre councillor Fernanda Melchionna, as well as leaders of PSOL currents such as MAIS, Strengthening the PSOL, CST, CEDS, leaders of the municipal workers' strike committee, as well as that of the state teachers, together with dozens of key activists of the university and secondary student youth. An important presence included intellectuals who defend Marxism as well as numerous former militants who in one way or another remain active and have not bowed to reformism or individual advancement.
In addition to the intense agenda in the debate, Woods was interviewed by important media outlets such as the newspaper Sul21 and Jornal do Comércio.
Robaina presented the objectives of the launch of this book and emphasized the effort of the two publishers to make it possible. He then welcomed Genro, who gave a presentation on the need to rescue the fundamental elements of the Russian Revolution and the struggle against bureaucratization, a subject that she deepened in her PhD research.Luciana greeted the speakers and emphasized the importance of the book and the battle for the education of revolutionaries as an inseparable part of our struggle for socialism.
Goulart explained a little of the differences between the old and current editions, and recommended reading the book as a theoretical and political weapon for the new generations.
Finally, Woods, in fluent Spanish, explained the entire 10-year struggle to bring this edition to light, as part of a battle for the truthfulness of Bolshevism's ideas. He explained the combination of the details and psychological and subjective traits of such personalities as Stalin (a man of the party bureaucracy) with the general determinations of the great historical processes. He showed how the rise of the great revolutions brings forth giants and political heroes and how in the epochs of retreat and ebb draw out the mediocrities, the careerists, the political swindlers. Stalin provides a real lesson in the history of humanity, based on the rigor of revolutionary Marxism.
In the end, with prolonged and extremely lively applause, the vast majority of the participants discussed enthusiastically as they formed a long line to get their purchased copies of the book autographed by Woods. Many of those present bought more than one copy of the book for comrades of theirs who had not been able to attend, or for friends and family as a gift of great value.
These book launches were extraordinary political successes and also a success in terms of sales, proving there is a thirst for theory and politics among workers and youth. This is the way forward.
Further book launches organised by the Brazilian publishers continue in numerous other cities and the book can still be purchased at a discount (only until November) through the website of Livraria Marxista or from comrades of the Marxist Left and the MES.