A Letter to Martin Abern
First Published: Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism, New York 1942.
Checked against: Leon Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism, London 1966, pp.188-189.
January 29, 1940
Dear Comrade Abern:
I received the communication about your alleged expression “This means split” from Comrade Cannon. He wrote on December 28th, 1939:
Your document has already been widely distributed in the party. So far I have heard only two definite comments from leaders of the minority. Abern, after he had read the title and the first few paragraphs, remarked to Goldman, “This means a split.”
I know Cannon as a trustworthy comrade and I didn’t have the slightest reason to doubt the veracity of his communication.
You say this report “is a lie.” I know by a long experience that during the sharp fight, misunderstandings of such a kind are very often without bad will from one side or the other.
You ask me whether I made any effort to check the veracity of this report. None at all. If I had spread it in private correspondence as a fact known to me, it would not have been loyal. But I published it with a remark “it has been reported” and so gave you the full possibility to confirm or deny the report. I believe this to be the best checking possible in a party discussion.
You say in the beginning of your letter: “I have disregarded in the past a number of false statements, but I note among other things, in your open letter …” etc. What signifies here the phrase, “a number of false statements”? From whom? What signifies the expression, “among other things”? What kind of things? Don’t you believe that your expressions can be understood by inexperienced comrades as vague insinuations? If, in my article, there are “a number of false statements” and “other things,” it would be better to enumerate them exactly. If the false statements are not from me, I don’t understand why you introduce them in your letter to me. I can also hardly understand how one can “disregard” a number of false statements if they have any political importance: it could be interpreted as a lack of attention toward the party.
In any case I note with satisfaction that you categorically deny the sentence “this means split.” I interpret the energetic tone of your letter in this sense, that your denial is not a formal one, that is, that you deny not only the quotation, but that you consider as I do, the idea of split itself as a despicable betrayal of the Fourth International.
Copy to Cannon