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    Trotsky fearing his papers attacking Stalin will fall into the wrong hands after his son mysteriously died in Paris, identifies his friends and enemies

    Leon Trotsky Important Typed Letter Signed "Warm wishes/Leon Trotsky" in French, one full page, 8.5" x 11". Coyoacán, D.F. [Mexico], January 14, 1939. To Gérard Rosenthal, his attorney in France. Noted "Copy to Rosmer." A full English translation is present. In part, "Jeanne Molinier sent on 25 December a letter in which she accuses Cannon to have 'shamefully deceived' her in the affair of Léon's letters that she transmitted through his intermediary. She expresses suspicions against Naville who was seen in Le Hâvre when the boat left, etc. All of this is premeditated craziness. Cannon is our most devoted friend. It is to him that I gave absolute power concerning all the things in Paris that are mine and Natalia's...I cannot tolerate any control from Jeanne Molinier over things that do not concern her. I refuse to grant the least trust in her, most of all since she tried to transmit my papers to Vereecken, the enemy and slanderer of Léon and that she has publicly slandered Rudolf Klement, Léon's friend and collaborator. I cannot allow the person who is capable of such treason to touch the documents that are mine...I give by this letter to my friend Jim Cannon absolute power to take Sieva to America. I cannot give any delay to this affair. I beg of you dear friend to act with extreme vigor. I want such blackmail over with as soon as possible. I can picture very well Raymond Molinier's clique behind this. I am enclosing with this letter copies of letters of Henri Molinier and Jeanne Molinier, indicating that they did not have any doubts that the documents belonged to me. For the lawsuit, I will send you copies or photostats of Léon's letters where he gives his opinion on the Molinier clique and about Vereecken to whom Jeanne Molinier has tried to betray his memory. We must get it over with. The abscesses must burst. The worst splashes cannot stain Léon's memory but they will be deadly for a few ignoble schemers. The most revolting is that all these betrayals are accomplished under the cover of faithfulness to the 'testament' of Léon. Once more, act with implacable vigor."

    It is important to identify Trotsky's family, friends, and enemies referred to in this extraordinary letter. Gérard Rosenthal (1903-1992) was a French Bolshevik-Leninist movement leader and Trotsky's lawyer and agent in Paris. Alfred Rosmer (1877-1964) was an anarchist and revolutionary syndicalist, then a leader of the French Communist Party and a friend and ideological supporter of Leon Trotsky. He was ousted from the Party for opposing Stalinism. Pierre Naville (1904-1993) was a French writer. He was a member of the French Communist Party and was part of a delegation which met with Trotsky in Moscow in 1927. Upon his return to Paris, he was ousted by the Communist Party in 1928 and became part of the French Trotskyist extreme left, writing for its publications. James Cannon (1890-1974) was chairman of the American Communist Party. Attending a Communist congress in the Soviet Union in 1928, he was given a document about Stalin written by Trotsky. When he returned to the United States, Cannon began criticizing the Soviet government and was expelled by the Party. He joined with other Trotskyists to form the Communist League of America. In 1938, Cannon became national secretary of the newly formed Socialist Workers Party. Léon Sedov (1906-1938) was Trotsky's son. In severe pain, he died on February 16, 1938, after an appendectomy in a Paris hospital. Some believed he was killed by Stalin's agents (see below). Jeanne Martin Molinier (1897-1961) was his wife. Natalia Sedova (1882-1962) was Leon Trotsky's second wife. Raymond Molinier (1904-1994) was Jeanne Molinier's ex-husband. He opposed the bureaucratic direction taken by the Communist International after the death of Lenin and became one of the leaders of opposition based on the positions of Trotsky. In the late 1930s, he split with Trotsky. Henri Molinier (1898-1944) was Raymond's brother and remained Trotsky's friend. Georges Vereecken (1896-1978) became a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Belgium in 1925. He was active in Brussels in the International Left Opposition (ILO)/International Communist League (ICL), Belgian Section 1928-1935, groupe Spartakus 1935-1937, and Parti Socialiste Révolutionnaire (PSR) 1937-1938 who also split with Trotsky in the late 1930s. Rudolf Klement (1908-1938) was a German-born Trotskyist and a friend of Trotsky and his son Léon. Klement had lived with Trotsky in France, served as his secretary, and had become administrative secretary of the International Secretariat of the International Left Opposition (ILO) which had been founded in Paris in 1930. Just six months before Trotsky wrote this letter, Klement was murdered in Paris by Stalinist agents. On July 26, 1938, his headless body with arms was fished out of the Seine and two days later a sack containing the legs. Sieva is Esteban Volkov (born 1926), Trotsky's grandson. He was the son of Zinaida Volkova, Trotsky's eldest daughter, who committed suicide in 1933. Called "Sieva," he was now living with his aunt, Jeanne Molinier, in Paris. She adamantly refused to hand over the child. In October 1939 Sieva was finally brought to Trotsky in Mexico not by Cannon, as Trotsky requests in this letter, but by Rosmer. When Trotsky mentions bringing "Sieva en Amérique," he means "America" geographically (i.e. Mexico). Volkov grew up in Mexico and settled there, continuing to live in his grandfather's Coyoacán villa and, after it was turned into the Trotsky museum, serving as its custodian.

    As is evident by this letter, Leon Trotsky valued his papers, especially the letters to his son Léon in which he wrote extensively about the Stalin regime. In 1936, Léon Sedov left some of his papers in the care of a friend, Mark Zborowski, who is now known to have been a Soviet secret police operative who had infiltrated the Trotskyist movement in Paris and soon became Sedov's confidant. Other Trotsky papers were tied together in bundles and transported to the Paris offices of historian Boris Nicolaevsky who specialized in documenting Russian socialism. Sedov and Zborowski had planned to transfer the papers Mark had to Nicolaevsky on November 7th but on the evening of November 6th, the office was burglarized and 15 bundles of Trotsky archives were stolen. On November 7th, Sedov rushed to Zborowski's apartment and transported the papers he had left there to the home of Gérard Rosenthal, his father's lawyer, and the recipient of this letter. A former senior official of the Soviet secret police (NKVD) who defected in 1938 accused Zborowski of planning the burglary. It was Mark Zborowski who had convinced Sedov to have his appendectomy done secretly at a small private clinic run by Russian emigres in Paris, the location of which Zborowski immediately revealed to the NKVD. At the time of Sedov's death, his wife Jeanne had split with other Trotskyists into a dissident group led by her ex-husband Raymond, so Leon Trotsky feared his papers would end up in the wrong hands. Rosmer had suggested to Trotsky that a commission of his representatives be formed to negotiate with Jeanne for the return of the Trotsky-Sedov papers in her possession; ergo this letter was written to his lawyer with a copy to Rosmer. Trotsky repeated his concerns in an April 10, 1939 letter to Rosenthal where he wrote that "in her letters to me Mrs. Molinier acknowledged that these papers were mine and were no concern of hers. At the same time she tried to extort from me a power of attorney which would have allowed her to transfer my papers to Mr. Vereecken, a man in the confidence of Mr. Raymond Molinier, an open enemy of my son and myself." On August 20, 1940, Leon Trotsky was attacked by an NKVD agent at his Coyoacán home. He died the next day. According to James Cannon, Trotsky's last words were "I will not survive this attack. Stalin has finally accomplished the task he attempted unsuccessfully before."

    The papers of Leon Trotsky have found their way into three major collections: Harvard University's Houghton Library, Amsterdam's International Institute for Social History, and Stanford University's Archives of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. This magnificent letter, in fine condition, with an excellent signature of Trotsky, would make a significant addition to any 20th century historical collection.

    ‡ The owner placed a late bid on this unreserved lot and repurchased it, subject to applicable commission.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2008
    21st-22nd Thursday-Friday
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