Natalia Sedova Trotsky
Written: 1 June 1935.
Source: New Militant [New York], Vol. I No. 27, 29 June 1935, pp. 1 & 2.
Online Version: Natalia Sedova Internet Archive, July 2015.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan.
Recently rumors have circulated widely among comrades to the effect that this time Stalin has chosen our youngest son Sergei as the object of his vengeance.
Friends keep asking us: is this really true? Yes, it is true: Sergei was arrested at the very beginning of this year.
If at first one could hope that the arrest was accidental, that to a day or two he would be freed, it is clear how that the jailers have far more serious designs. Since many of the comrades are deeply concerned by the new blow struck at our family it would possibly be best if I stated the entire case in a letter intended for general information.
Sergei was born in 1908. At the outbreak of the October revolution he was a nine year old boy. He grew up in the Kremlin. In families whose elder members are absorbed by politics the younger ones are often repelled thereby. Such was also our case. Sergei never occupied himself with political questions; he was not even a member of the Communist Youth (Komsomol).
In his schooldays he was absorbed in sport, the circus, and he became an accomplished athlete. In the university he concentrated on mathematics and mechanics. As an engineer he received a professorship in one of the higher technical schools and in the last couple of years he carried on there an extensive pedagogical activity. With two other colleagues he published recently a special work entitled: Light Gas Generators of Automobile-Tractor Type. The book published by the Scientific Automobile-Tractor Institute was warmly received by the most outstanding specialists in the field.
When we were forced into exile abroad Sergei was still a student. The authorities allowed members of our family either to accompany us or to remain in the U.S.S.R. Sergei decided to remain in Moscow so as not to be torn away from that work which from then on absorbed his whole being.
The material conditions of his existence were very difficult but did not differ in this respect from the living conditions of the overwhelming majority of the unprivileged Soviet youth. Of course, the shameful slanders continuously spread by the Soviet press about L.D. Trotsky and his co-thinkers could not fail to cause moral suffering to Sergei.
But of this I can only surmise. My correspondence with my son was limited exclusively to “neutral” everyday subjects, never touching on political questions and the special living conditions of our family circle (it should be added that even these letters reached him only in exceptional cases). L.D. did not correspond at all with our son in the years of exile so as not to give the authorities the slightest pretext for persecutions or simple annoyance. And, as a matter of fact, in the six years of our present emigration Sergei continued his intense scientific and pedagogic work without any interference on the part of the authorities.
Things took a different course following the assassination of Kirov and the famous trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev. Correspondence ceased entirely. Sergei was arrested. From day to day I expected that correspondence would be resumed. But almost half a year has elapsed since Sergei has been in prison. It is precisely this that compels me to think that the jailers have some special designs in mind.
Is it possible to conceive that under the influence of events my son became involved recently in opposition activity? I would be happy for his sake if I could think so because then Sergei could bear up much easier under the blow that has been dealt him. But such a supposition must be considered absolutely out of the question. From various sources we knew that Sergei was just as much removed from politics in recent years as before I personally had no need even of these testimonials as I know only too well his psychological make-up and his intellectual bent.
Why, even the authorities, from Stalin down, were well aware of it: Sergei, I repeat, grew up in the Kremlin, Stalin’s son was a frequent visitor in the boy’s room; the G.P.U. and the university authorities kept a redoubled watch over him first as a student, secondly as a young professor. He was arrested not for any sort of opposition activity (which did not exist and under all circumstances could not exist) but exclusively as the son of L.D. with the aim of wreaking vengeance upon the family. This is the only explanation possible.
All comrades remember the attempt of the G.P.U. to link up the name of L.D. with the Kiroff assassination: the Latvian consul who gave money for the terrorist act offered at the same time to the terrorists to transmit a letter from them to Trotsky. This whole scheme, however, fell through and served only to compromise the organizers of the trial.
But precisely because of it we repeated frequently in our family circle after the trial: “They will not stop at this, they will have to prepare some new case to cover up the failure of the amalgam with the consul.” The same thought was also expressed by L.D. in his articles in the Russian Bulletin.
The only thing that we did not know was the method the G.P.U. will choose this time. But now there can not be even a shadow of a doubt. By arresting the absolutely innocent Sergei and by keeping him in jail for months Stalin clearly and indubitably pursues the aim of creating a new “amalgam.”
For this purpose he must force from Sergei some sort of suitable confession, even if only a “renunciation” of his father. I will not speak of the methods by which Stalin obtains the confessions he requires, I have no information on this score. But all the circumstances speak for themselves ...
It would be very simple to verify the facts stated in this letter. It would be sufficient, for instance, to establish an international committee consisting of authoritative and sincere individuals, of course, well-established friends of the U.S.S.R. Such a committee would have to examine into all repressions in connection with the Kirov assassination, among other things it would throw the necessary light also on the case of our son Sergei.
This suggestion has nothing exceptional or unacceptable. When the Social Revolutionaries, the organizers of attempts on the lives of Lenin and Trotsky were being tried in 1922, the Central Committee under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky afforded Vandervelde, Kurt Rosenfeld and other adversaries of the Soviet government the right to participate in the trial as defenders of the accused terrorists. This was done precisely in order to dispel in the’ mind of the international proletariat any doubts as to the fairness of the trial.
Could not Romain Rolland, Charles Gide, Bernard Shaw and other friends of the Soviet Union assume the initiative to establish such a committee in agreement with the Soviet government? This would be the best method of checking on the accusations and the suspicions widely spread in the working masses.
The Soviet bureaucracy cannot place itself above the public opinion of the international working class. As regards the interests of the workers’ state, a serious verification of its actions could only serve to its advantage. I, for one, would submit to such an authoritative committee all necessary information and documents concerning my son.
This letter of mine is therefore a direct appeal to working class organizations and friends of the U.S.S.R. abroad, not to interested attorneys of the Soviet bureaucracy, of course, but to sincere and independent friends of the October revolution.
If after prolonged hesitation, I raise openly the question of Sergei it is not only because he happens to be my son. This reason would be more than sufficient for a mother but insufficient to arouse political initiative. But the case of Sergei represents a clear, simple and indisputable case of conscious and criminal self-will, a case which can be very easily verified: the bureaucratic upper-crust crushes and torments a highly qualified Soviet worker who is known to be loyal and absolutely innocent – only in order to satisfy the base instincts of revenge without any political justification: for is it not absolutely obvious that physical suffering inflicted on the son could have no influence whatever on the direction of the political activity of the father, an activity to which Sergei was never in any way related?
That is why I permit myself to think that the case of my son deserves public attention. At any rate, whoever wants to act must act immediately, because given silence and impunity the vengeful acts of Stalin may soon assume an irretrievable character.
France, June 1, 1935
Last updated on: 28 July 2015