Revolution Betrayed conference report
The following is Simon Pirani’s report from the November 1996 conference to mark the 60th anniversary of the publication of The Revolution Betrayed. It also announces the Copmmittee’s next conference and provides contact details.
Anniversary of Trotsky’s classic book on Stalinism marked in Moscow
An international conference was held in Moscow on 22-24 November 1996 to mark the 60th anniversary of the publication of The Revolution Betrayed by Leon Trotsky.
The conference, organised by the International Committee for the Study of L.D. Trotsky’s Legacy and held at the offices of the Memorial society, was attended by scholars from Japan, the US and western Europe as well as from Russia. Representatives of Trotskyist and other opposition communist movements also took part.
Valerii Borisovich Bronstein, grandson of Leon Trotsky’s brother Aleksandr, opened the conference. He said that in the 60 years since the publication of Trotsky’s landmark analysis of the USSR under Stalin, no serious discussion of it had been possible in Russia. Now such discussion was possible and the committee’s work was welcome for that reason.
Two important Russian historians researching Trotsky, Vadim Rogovin and Major General Yuri Kirshin, addressed the conference.
Professor Rogovin has recently published the third and fourth volumes of his outline history of opposition in the Soviet Communist Party, Stalinist Neo-NEP 1934-36 and The Year 1937.
Maj-Gen Professor Kirshin, vice-president of the Academy of Military Science in Moscow, is presently working on a book examining Trotsky as military theorist. His paper at the conference, based on some years of research in the military archives, was of particular interest.
A large number of contributors focused on Trotsky’s analysis of the fate of the Russian revolution and Soviet society in the 1930s. Among these were Vladimir Billik (St Petersburg), Dr Boris Slavin (Moscow), Professor Mikhail Voeykov (Moscow), Dr Alexeii Gusev (Moscow) and Jean-Jacques Marie (Paris).
The presence of a Japanese contingent enriched the conference discussions. S. Nori (Tokyo) delivered a paper on “Trotsky’s Ideological Legacy in Japan”, a subject previously virtually unknown to other participants. He also received a round of applause with another revelation – that three Japanese student delegates to a showpiece international conference in Moscow in 1962, of which he was one, had demonstrated in Red Square against nuclear testing, been arrested and then, thankfully, released after a few hours.
Scholars from the US had to be thanked for focusing on some less commonly discussed but important aspects of Trotsky’s work. Philip Maloney (Montana) spoke on “Trotsky in Defence of Literature” and Anne d’Orazio (New York) on “The Stalinist constitution of 1936”. Suzanne Weissmann (Los Angeles) compared The Revolution Betrayed to Russia Twenty Years After, the contemporaneous but little-known work by the opposition communist Victor Serge, which has just been republished in English.
If the conference suffered from a problem it was from the large number of papers delivered within a tight schedule (by my reckoning, 31 from nine countries in two-and-a-half days), bearing witness to a level of interest which outstripped the organisers’ expectations. Thankfully, the translation of the proceedings into English and French was good.
At the end of the conference many who participated went to lay flowers at the Solovetskii stone, a monument to the victims of Stalinist repression, which stands at Lubyanka Square in place of the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky pulled down in 1991. Professor A. Buzgalin (Moscow) summed up the attitude of those present when he said to the crowd, and attendant journalists, that Stalinist mass murder had been not the continuation but the negation and betrayal of the socialist ideas which had motivated Russian revolutionaries.
October 1997 conference
The International Committee for the Study of L.D. Trotsky’s Legacy will be holding a conference on “Trotsky and the Russian Revolution” on October 10-12 1997 in Moscow. Further details, official invitations to facilitate visa applications etc, may be obtained from: Professor Mikhail Voeykov, Room 620, Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, ulitsa Krasikova 27, 117218 Moscow, Russia. Tel: (00-7095) 326 3497. Fax: (00- 7095) 310 7001.
The International Committee for the Study of L.D.Trotsky’s Legacy
The committee was founded in 1994 with these objects: to facilitate the publication of works by Trotsky in Russian, to create in Moscow an international centre for the collection and study of materials related to Trotsky’s political and theoretical activity, and to develop discussion of Trotsky’s ideas through conferences and seminars. Its president is Pierre Broué, the historian and biographer of Trotsky.
At a meeting held during the Moscow conference, the committee indicated its support for efforts to raise money to support the Trotsky Museum at Coyoacan, Mexico, which is in grave financial difficulties.
The committee’s first publication, a collection of papers from its first conference in 1994, is available (in Russian). Under its auspices preparation has begun for the publication of a Russian edition of The Case of Leon Trotsky, the minutes of the Dewey Commission set up to answer the fabrications used in the Moscow trials.
Information about the committee’s activities in the UK is available from
Terry Brotherstone (Aberdeen University; phone 01224 272466; fax 01224 272203; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
or Hillel Ticktin (Glasgow University; phone 0141 330 5594; fax 01555 840057; e-mail email@example.com).
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Updated by ETOL: 20.10.2003