[Classics] In Defence Of Marxism

A Letter to Joseph Hansen[1]

29 February, 1940

My dear Joe,

If Shachtman affirms that the letter quoted by me about Spain was signed not only by him but also by Cannon and Carter, then he is completely mistaken. I would of course not have hidden the other signatures but they did not exist. As you will see from the photographs, the letter was signed only by Max Shachtman.

In my article I admitted that in different questions the Majority comrades could have shared the errors of Shachtman but they never made a system of them, they never transformed them into a factional platform. And that is the whole question.

Abern and Burnham are indignant that I quote their oral declarations without a previous ‘verification’. They mean obviously that, instead of publishing these alleged declarations and of giving to both of them the full possibility to confirm or to deny them, I should send an investigating committee from here with five or seven impartial persons and a couple of stenographers. And why the terrible moral noise? Burnham several times identified dialectics with religion. Yes, it is a fact. But on this special occasion he didn’t pronounce the sentence I quote (as reported to me). Oh, horror! Oh, Bolshevik cynicism, etc.!

The same with Abern.[2] In his letter to me he shows clearly that he is preparing for a split. But you see, he never pronounced to Goldman the sentence about split. It is a slander! A dishonest invention! A calumny, etc.!

As far as I remember, my article on morals begins with a remark about the moral sweatings of the disorientated petty bourgeois. We have now a new occurrence of the same phenomenon in our own party.

The new moralists quote, I heard, my terrible crime concerning Eastman and Lenin’s Testament.[3] What despicable hypocrites! Eastman published the document on his own initiative in a moment when our faction decided to interrupt all public activity in order to avoid a premature split. Don’t forget it was before the famous Anglo-Russian Trade Union Committee and before the Chinese Revolution, even before the appearance of the Zinoviev opposition. We were obliged to manoeuvre in order to win time. On the contrary, the Troika wished to utilise Eastman’s publication in order to provoke a kind of oppositional abortion. They presented an ultimatum: Either I must sign the declaration written by the Troika in my name or they will immediately open the fight on the matter. The opposition centre decided unanimously that this issue at this moment is absolutely unfavourable, that I must accept the ultimatum and sign my name under a declaration written by the Politburo. The transforming of this political necessity into an abstract moral question is only possible for petty-bourgeois fakers who are ready to proclaim: Pereat mundus, fiat justicia! (the world can perish, long live justice!), but who have a far more indulgent bookkeeping for their own daily procedures. And these people imagine that they are revolutionaries! Our old Mensheviks were real heroes in comparison with them.

W. Rork [Leon Trotsky]
Coyoacán, D.F.


[1] This letter was written by Trotsky in English.

[2] See Trotsky’s letter to Abern, 29 January, 1940. – Ed.

[3] In 1925 Max Eastman released for publication in the New York Times the text of Lenin’s Testament and included it in his book Since Lenin Died.
At the hearings of the Dewey Commission, Trotsky gave the following explanation for disavowing Eastman at that time:
“Eastman published this document without consulting me and the others, and by these means he sharpened terribly the inner struggle in the Soviet Union, in the Politburo, which was the beginning of the split. We tried on our side to avoid a split. The majority of the Politburo asked me, demanded of me, to take a position toward this. It was a very diplomatic document that I signed at that time.” (The Case of Leon Trotsky, p. 429.) – Ed.